Thea is a severely disable young woman, aged 40, and is the inspiration for this project
Why is it needed?
Historically, people with learning disabilities were treated as totally unacceptable, social outcasts, and hidden away from society in “asylums” until their demise.
Thankfully, we have moved on considerably from those dark days, and it is now more generally appreciated that they should have the opportunity to live life to the fullest extent of their abilities, and also that they have many contributions to make to the lives of others. Nevertheless, there remains a long way to go!
The elderly, generally continued to live with their family, and became the “support system” for the younger, married members, doing cleaning, cooking, child-minding etc., until their demise – remembering of course, that there was a considerably reduced life expectancy!
Certainly, residential care homes are now smaller and more intimate, and are likely to adequately cover the first essential levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, above. Some might even begin to creep into the “love and belonging” level, but the development of a country is measured by its treatment of the vulnerable members of its society, and it’s time that our country started to work at helping these people to reach the top of their personal pyramids!
It should also be remembered that people are now living considerably longer, which is creating large, and ever-increasing, numbers of very elderly people who require residential care. In addition, the advancements of medical science are now keeping people (of all ages) alive, where previously the extent of their disabilities would have taken their lives. There are, therefore, many more people surviving with a wide variety of disabilities too – so the existing problems are only going to get worse!
Difficulties facing current Care system
Privatisation:For many years now, “Care” for these vulnerable people has been privatised. It has now become a “private enterprise”, and it must be remembered that, (quite legitimately), the principal object of “business” is specifically, to make money.
The greatest expense in “Care” is staffing costs, and these have been retained at the level of the basic minimum wage, by actively recruiting care staff from abroad. Whilst the input from other cultures is a positive thing, the effect this has had on wage levels has been noted by Unions across many fields of employment in the UK.
To care for another person is one of the most significant and precious experiences in life, and the importance of good care being provided by sincere, well-trained and caring carers must never come a poor second to personal profit! Carers must be properly trained, genuinely valued, and appropriately remunerated.
Lack of funds (or increased profits?), also inevitably affect décor and resources available to vulnerable residents, and with many of them also unable to voice their grievances, concerns, or even potential abuse, little is done to rectify this.
Many learning-disabled and elderly people are unable to either speak at all, or to stand up for their own rights or needs, and not all have the benefit of a closely involved family or advocate to speak on their behalf. In addition, cut-backs with Social Services mean that many residents no longer have a designated social worker to monitor their care, making them ever more vulnerable.
Whilst there is a “monitoring” system (called the Care Quality Commission [CQC]) for residential care, it does have limitations. Inspections are booked, so the care homes can ensure that the inspectors see what they want them to see. Considerable importance is given to checking paperwork, and it should be noted, that in places designated as “independent living”, the inspectors are not actually allowed to enter without a specific invitation from the resident.
Lack of imagination:
Décor tends to be of a type to appeal to mature, non-disabled visitors and inspectors – for example, pictures of stones, plain walls, etc, and how many Care Homes consider “entertainment” for their residents to simply be furniture lined up along a wall facing a flickering television screen? How many clear away every item of decoration or “homeliness” in case a resident may damage or break something?
There simply HAS to be SO MUCH MORE!So how will BETTER LIVING be different?
The restoration of “Community” in several ways:
The needs of the learning-disabled and the elderly are remarkably similar in many respects. There can also be great advantages in linking. For example, a person with learning-disabilities may enjoy using a trampoline, and an elderly person may get great enjoyment from watching them – whilst not wishing a personal involvement, it is stimulating to see things happening.
As a registered Charity, the Project would be able to avail itself of the assistance of local Volunteer Bureau’s. There are a great number of people in the community who wish to offer their skills to others, in fields such as gardening; driving; administration; befriending; care; cooking; handy-men; administration; keeping fit; crafts; music…. The list is almost endless, and voluntary participation will be encouraged via Voluntary Centres in both this country and abroad; as well as from students (to enhance their CV’s); university students seeking work-placements etc.
The creation of Community Resources:
In-house resources can soon become “tired” or even boring for residents. To ensure a constant supply of new, different, up-to-date and even challenging items, the Project will also develop a Toy and Leisure Lending Library on site.
This facility will have several benefits – there is the obvious benefit of new items to stimulate residents, but hidden benefits include the fact that it will draw in young people and their families to experiment with unusual leisure activities that are not usually available to them – bringing another source of fun and laughter on site, as well as new resources for Portage Services. In addition, individuals and local companies often like to donate something specific, and the Library can offer huge choice for donations at a wide variety of prices, to appeal to all pockets!
The involvement of other charities:
There will be animal involvement, such as cats to sit on laps and purr, and visits from dogs for petting. If grounds permit, there could even be carriage riding and horse riding……
There are many charities which seek involvement with others for mutual benefit, such as The Cat’s Protection League, which seeks homes for animals when their owner has died; Guide Dogs for the Blind, who train their dogs to behave well around other people, to mention only two.
It will value Carers
It will not pay the minimum wage to staff. It will properly value the work of trained carers, and pay a realistic wage to staff.
Care staff should not be expected to also be cleaners, cooks, laundry people, handymen, drivers… There is tremendous value in employing specialists in the numerous, wide variety of fields. For example, a trained cook can really economise by using food to the best advantage, and even creating “an activity” for those who might enjoy making cakes, jams, and other produce. “Drivers” may also take pride in maintaining vehicles at good standards of mechanical competence and overall cleanliness.
It will create imaginative internal and external environments
The living environment will incorporate stimulating décor and interactive items. There may be a “sensory room”, but not one to which individuals are taken if they become stressed, as this may be considered to almost be a “punishment”. Sensory equipment will be installed everywhere throughout the residence, which can be turned on at the flick of a switch, as required. EVERY room should be able to become a “sensory room”, if necessary. There will be “feely walls”, and interactive equipment throughout – not simply a television set talking to itself.
There will also be “quiet” rooms and spaces for those who prefer them – both internally and externally – as well as communal rooms where people can come together if they wish to do so. The gardens will be sub-divided, to incorporate herbs and scented plants for stimulation and relaxation, and at a height that can be appreciated by residents. Areas to encourage wildlife, possibly even chickens, and areas to grow produce. Play equipment such as swings; slides; trampolines, which can be used or simply watched, and also outdoor, adult exercise equipment.
It will provide “Holistic Care”
This means it will consider all the needs of the individuals, and involve complementary therapies such as osteopathy; reflexology; healthy living and dietary issues as appropriate. It will also provide “beauty” treatments, such as manicures, pedicures, massage etc. to enhance overall well-being.
Involvement will also be encouraged from therapists undergoing training, Therapies such as speech, physio, osteopathy, reflexology, beauty therapy, hair-dressing manicures, pedicures, massage, dietitians…….etc.
There should also be therapy pools, jacuzzi baths and washlet toilets.