How care goes deeper than what meets the eye, as told by industry experts.

Resident wellbeing in care homes is a critical and multifaceted topic that encompasses various aspects of physical, emotional, and social health. There has recently been a growing emphasis on person-centred care, which focuses on tailoring care to individual residents’ preferences and needs, meaning we are encouraging the industry to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to provide more personalised and flexible care plans as the sector continues to change.

Taking note of some of the emotional and psychological aspects of care that might not be immediately visible but are crucial in providing support is a key way in providing more personalised experiences and Hannah Mulholland, Director of Customer Experience and Wellbeing at Avery healthcare gave us some examples of what these could entail: “Maintaining dignity and autonomy – providing support without infringing upon residents’ independence, promoting empathy and active listening – not just understanding a person’s emotions but also sharing those feelings, providing comfort through companionship, and offering a non-judgmental space for expression and practicing cultural sensitivity buy taking the time to understand and respect cultural differences.”

Hannah sees that in care homes, empathy is the foundation upon which trust is built in the relationship as she explained that when residents feel that their emotions and concerns are understood and validated, they are more likely to trust their carers and be open to receiving care and support: “Empathy and understanding help caregivers adapt and tailor their approach to match the individual’s preferences and emotional needs, ultimately improving the quality of care.

“Carers can practice perspective-taking and consider non-verbal cues such as changes in facial expressions, posture, and gestures. These cues provide valuable insight into a resident’s emotional state.”

With holistic care becoming more prevalent, Hannah recognises that cultural sensitivity and understanding are essential to providing this, recognising individuals’ unique values, beliefs, customs, and preferences and, more importantly, actively adapting care to meet these specific needs and preferences.

When caregivers integrate cultural sensitivity into their practice, they can offer more effective person-centred care. This may include respect for cultural beliefs and practices, religious observance and dietary restrictions, health beliefs, end-of-life care, and bereavement customs.

Sharing examples of instances where genuine care made a significant impact on an individual’s life, beyond just meeting their basic needs, Hannah told us about ‘Taking Flight on a Dream’: “One unforgettable moment involved a resident’s lifelong dream of flying. With the support of the home’s dedicated staff, this dream became a reality. The resident was taken up in an aeroplane and allowed to take the controls, guided by a skilled pilot. The sheer joy and exhilaration on his face as he soared through the sky, was a testament to the care that goes beyond boundaries to fulfil dreams.

“Stories like this one reflect the incredible dedication of the wellbeing teams at just one of our homes: Camberley Woods Care Home. Beyond the extraordinary wish-fulfilling moments, everyday activities and attention to detail create an environment where residents thrive and find joy. These remarkable examples demonstrate that genuine care knows no bounds and has the power to transform lives in the most unexpected and heart-warming ways.”

Another story involving an example of genuine care and the impact it had on an individual’s life came from Heather Joy, Director of Operations at HICA Group, who explained: “A particular resident had been living in a long-term care facility for several years. She had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and her communication abilities had deteriorated to the point where she rarely spoke or engaged with others. However, she had once been an avid pianist and had a deep love for music.

“The homes Activity Coordinator, herself a music fan and player, noticed the resident pointing at an old piano in a corner of the communal area. The Act Co decided to try playing the piano. She sat down at the piano and began to play some of the classical pieces she had learned. To everyone’s amazement, the resident’s eyes lit up, and she slowly made her way to the piano. Although she couldn’t remember her own name, she remembered how to play the piano.

“They began playing together regularly, creating music that not only brought joy to the resident but also brightened the lives of other residents and staff. Through this shared musical experience, the Act Co not only provided entertainment but also a profound sense of connection and purpose to a resident’s life.”

In caregiving, addressing emotional and psychological aspects of care is crucial for comprehensive support. This includes offering emotional support to individuals, acknowledging their feelings, and respecting their dignity by using preferred names and maintaining privacy.

Heather spoke about how caregivers also play a role in promoting mental stimulation through activities and engagement to combat boredom and isolation: “Establishing a routine provides a sense of security, especially for those with cognitive impairments. Being culturally sensitive ensures care aligns with individual preferences, while allowing autonomy and choice empowers individuals in decision-making. Encouraging emotional expression prevents frustration and distress.”

Speaking on how care goes deeper that what meets the eye, a home’s physical environment plays an important role. Heather explained how safety features like slip-resistant floors and handrails contribute to a sense of security.

Privacy and personal space are crucial for individuals, providing a retreat from communal areas. A comfortable and homelike atmosphere with familiar decor fosters relaxation.

“Access to natural light and views of greenery regulates sleep-wake cycles and reduces depression. Therapeutic spaces offer calming and stimulating environments. Noise control through sound-absorbing materials and quiet spaces reduces stress.

“Thoughtful colour and design choices have a psychological impact. Flexibility in the environment ensures adaptability to changing needs, and familiarity with personal belongings enhances comfort.

“Personalisation through cherished items like family photos adds to the sense of identity. Finally, cleanliness and pleasant odours contribute to overall comfort,” added Heather.

The physical environment has a huge impact on resident wellbeing too. Style, comfort and practicality must all be factored in, and these key attributes can be clearly seen in Furncare furniture. They specialise in the design, manufacture and installation of distinctive care home furniture and interiors. Randal Southall, Furncare Director, highlights the fact that for those who spend a lot of time confined to their bed or a chair, a convenient table is not so much a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an absolute necessity.

It’s not only your residents who’ll thank you for providing stylish and functional over-bed tables. They make important aspects of care hassle-free for carers too. Randal explained how a solid, reliable and safe surface makes simple tasks like reading and playing cards, access to spectacles and using a phone so much easier: “Eating and drinking becomes a whole lot easier and safer too.”

To prove the point, product innovations like Furncare’s Marlin over-bed table really help to improve user wellbeing. The table can be used flat or adjusted to create an angled surface (like an easel) with handy restraint strips fitted to support books and magazines. Randal goes on to explain some of the Furncare alternatives too. “The Fenton has a gas strut for effortless height adjustment, whilst our exclusive and stylish Earlham over-chair table has a recessed top so spillages, inevitable from time to time, are safely contained until they can be wiped away”.

In summary, care in care homes extends far beyond the basic necessities and encompasses emotional support, personalised care, dignity, safety, and much more. It recognises the unique needs and individuality of each resident and aims to enhance their overall quality of life and wellbeing.