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With the changing face of funding for the care and support of older people there’s a growing need to ensure that we offer as much value for money as possible through our retirement living products. Here, Helen Shields, business manager for retirement living at Bromford offers her thoughts.

In the past we had the Supporting People funding to help older people live independently with the assistance of a support worker but this is virtually   non-existent now. Add to this the lack of core care contracts available and it’s clear that we need to find ways of helping older people to embrace their independence.

We can never be sure of the future so we have to plan to be flexible and one of our main aims is to keep things as affordable as possible. But affordability doesn’t have to mean a compromise on quality – it just means that we have to look at things in a different way.

Traditionally, ‘care homes’ for older people created a dependency culture and this is something we’ve got to move away from if we are to offer a quality, affordable service for years to come. The days of older people having carers do everything for them are coming to an end so we need to create communities where it is the norm for everyone to look out for each other.

Creating a vibrant place for older people to live in won’t happen overnight but I have a few ideas that might help. I’ve noticed that there are a number of professionals who work within older people schemes who are maybe blinkered as they go about their daily work.

For instance, care workers care for the people who are on their list and focus on doing what they have to do to fulfil their contracted needs. What if care providers encouraged their staff to spend just one hour a day interacting with some of the other people in the community in a more relaxed way? It could be something as simple as talking about last night’s Coronation Street or helping with a crossword. There are lots of lonely people about and a simple ‘hello’ can help to make someone feel that they are cared about and that they belong. Human interactions are really important for everyone and the more time we spend with each other, the stronger our communities become. I think it would be great if we could get to the point where carers used some of their down-time to chat and interact with everyone – not just the people they care for. How nice would that be?

It’s not just carers – schemes also have onsite caterers whose job it is to cook the meals for the customers. How good would it be if we could encourage greater interactions between the older people and the caterers too? Maybe they could come out of the kitchen when they’re on their break and share a pot of tea and a chat - or they could possibly offer cooking classes and healthy eating advice. All of these increased interactions could only lead to a more caring environment where everyone feels valued and genuinely cared about – and not because people feel that they have to, but because they want to.

I want us to get to the stage where people say our schemes are caring, active, vibrant communities. But this won’t happen on its own – we need everyone who has an involvement to pull together. This includes professionals, family, friends and of course the older people themselves. Read the second part of Helen's blog where she shares her thoughts around health and wellbeing here.

 Business manager for retirement living

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