Residential care is not a positive choice for most people. It is unloved, even feared, said Paul Burstow as he unveiled the findings of the year-long Commission on Residential Care backed by Demos.

He goes on to say that residential care needs to be rebranded to ‘housing with care’ in order to better describe a spectrum of options.

But residential care needs more than a rebrand, it needs a reboot. We need fresh new alternatives with different ways of working so older people can live happy and meaningful lives in the heart of their community.

Under the current system, residential care options are cold and institution-like. There are routines and regimes, with task lists that staff have to complete in a set timeframe. As a result, staff can’t spend the quality time they need with their residents in order to develop a meaningful relationship.  

Terms like person-centered care, care plan, and service user are bandied about, which mean nothing to the customer and only serve to reinforce the dividing line between staff and residents.

Residents are disabled not enabled. The independence they would enjoy in their own home is taken away and so are their choices. Residents eat what they’re given at a fixed time, and do the activities prescribed by a coordinator.

There is a lack of privacy. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve seen someone walk into a resident’s room without permission or a door is left open as someone is getting dressed or showered.

We need to create a real sense of home and that’s about connectedness and companionship. This  can only develop if people are encouraged to take part in their community and staff are given the time to get to know the residents.

It’s also about giving people freedom, whether that’s being able to walk into the kitchen to help yourself to a piece of cake to have with your tea or deciding you want wine with dinner. And lastly, it’s about security – the security of knowing that you don’t have to move if you don’t want to and that there are always people around who can offer support.

The focus must be creating a culture which gives older people the confidence that they always have love and companionship and a safety net when they need it, while enabling them to lead meaningful lives in the heart of their community.

While the Demos report picked up on many of these themes, even highlighting Evermore and our friends at The Green House Project as part of a ‘better way’ (see p163),  it needs the sector to embrace cultural change for action to happen.

Sara McKee, Evermore Founder & Director of Market Innovation 

Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA

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A version of this blog originally appeared here