Open day should open doors

Future of care

By Neil Taylor, June 16, 2013

Next Friday, people are being asked to pay a visit to their local care home, to take a look at what goes on, to meet the staff and residents, and generally to find out about more about these local resources. Some will be taking part because they are nosy neighbours curious about what they might see, while others may be motivated by altruism, curiosity or even suspicion.

You may well be wondering: why? Why the mass exodus into care homes on a Friday in the middle of June? The short answer is that it is the first ever National Care Home open day. A day when "the UK's care homes will take centre stage, uniting for the first time to create lasting links between care homes, residents and their local communities".

Of course, it would be churlish not to applaud an initiative that gives care homes the opportunity to take centre stage for all the right reasons and encourages the development of necessary links. However, the cynic in me says this is not something that can be achieved in a day. Nor should care homes be confined behind closed doors for the other 364 days of the year.

Generally speaking, perceptions of care homes in this country tend to be poor. I can see the need for initiatives that offer an insight into what life in a care home is really like, in order to bridge the gap between perception and reality. The rare cases of poor practice blight the sector. And, in the main, care homes are still seen as places of last resort; where you go when you can no longer cope. Static places you go to and never leave.

The reality is so very different. For many, they provide somewhere to stay for a short period, maybe while they recover from an illness or in order to give a carer a break.

Care homes are still seen as places of last resort

Even more hidden from the public eye is the role that care homes play in supporting family members living with the strain that caring for a loved one often brings. They can also be a hub for bringing generations together - perfect environments for educating the young about their heritage and history, enabling older generations to share their "pearls of wisdom" with future generations.

In the Jewish community, we have a wealth of assets, many of which we take for granted - not least some 15 care homes owned and managed by a spectrum of providers from within the community. Our communal care homes pride themselves in providing excellent, culturally sensitive care. But excellent care isn't enough. Homes need to be embedded in communities and their residents need to be seen as part of that wider community.

Residents of care homes have as many needs as the rest of us; even, I would argue, more entitlement to good community services that can meet their spiritual, cultural and medical needs. For some, these services need to be provided within the care home environment, but others can access them outside of the care home.

Following a spate of terrible, high-profile cases about neglect or poor standards, protecting vulnerable people is a key concern. An effective way to safeguard and protect the interests and the residents of care homes is to have doors open and make these places accountable to the community. It is for all these reasons that every day should be an "open day" in a care home. As a community we need to make sure that our Jewish care homes are active places bringing together people from all generations and providing services for those too vulnerable to leave.

But the opening of care home doors should be a two-way process, in which residents who are able are supported to enjoy all that the outside world has to offer.

Closing the doors on the most vulnerable people in our community is something that belongs in the last century. This open day may be a start for some but the truth is that in the Jewish community, we should be aiming for this to be one day that we don't need.

Neil Taylor is director of care and community Services, Jewish Care. This is the first is a series of pieces on aspects of care over the next decade.

Neil Taylor is director of care and community Services, Jewish Care. This is the first is a series of pieces on aspects of care over the next decade.

Last updated: 11:45am, June 16 2013