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Care Home Conundrum

Care homes are increasingly caught in the middle of a struggle between having to provide the hospitality of a hotel and the medical provisions of hospitals. How can care homes provide residents with the perfect answer?




The very origins of the words hospital and hospitality are seemingly at the heart of the crossroads that many care homes are finding themselves at. It can be so difficult to provide the right one size fits all solution to so many different residents’ needs, but that is the care home conundrum.

The word “hospital” comes from the Latin “hospes”, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. While “hospitium” came to signify hospitality, that is the relation between guest and the person or place providing shelter.

In the Middle-Ages pilgrims would turn to religious groups to look after them on their journeys, and slowly the hospitality turned into more medical provision, and modern hospitals as we know them began to take shape.

So there has always been this balancing act between the two terms – and that is increasingly being felt in the care home community today. But how can the two be juggled effectively- to provide great health care, but also a wonderful form of hospitality to clients?


Which way to go

Different directions

The answer, like so many things, appears to be in knowing how and what to take from other areas. So care homes can take elements of the leisure and hospitality industry and make it fit for their needs, while providing the best provisions for health care, and the medical needs of residents.

Obviously there is no single standard care home – from “nursing homes” to ‘Residential homes”, each has its own focus and selling point. Those that provide food, accommodation and personal care for residents, as well as access to 24 hour medical care from trained medical professionals have one set of challenges.

Others, which offer a residential home approach, may provide a lower level of medical support, but focus on enhanced living arrangements. The more “retirement home” approach. Then there are those which maintain a blended approach of both – the nursing element of a care home, but the creature comforts of a home in the truest sense of the word.

These can be extremely difficult and complex balancing acts – residents needs can change quickly, and providing the right levels of care, the desired levels of hospitality and comfort can be a real challenge.



The right answers

So what are the approaches that can work, whether providing the best of medical care, or the most comfortable of care homes? Whether addressing the hospital or the hospitality angles, there are some key aspects that all homes, whether caring, nursing or residential can consider.

From the client perspective:

1. Giving residents a voice – Across so many studies elderly people stress the need to maintain a voice and input into their own care and situation. So we have to let them speak, and we need to listen.

2. A sense of choice – With speaking and listening comes the need to have options. Residents have to feel that they have some choices in their care and comfort.

3. Feeling of control – Again, with moving into care, there can be a sense of spiraling out of control. Decisions made by others, and every aspect of life – and even death, becoming choices for others, and not the person in question. Elderly people still need to feels a sense of control, however that is delivered.

4. Maintaining Identity – It is so important to try and ensure that residents can feel their identity remains. The stories, experiences and places which have shaped them are so pivotal, and perhaps become ever more important in the transition to life in a care home.

5. Sharing Decision-Making – Some decisions need to be made, and will be taken – but giving residents a sense of a shared role can be important make a real difference.

6. Creating Community – The best care homes have that sense of community, of people together in a joint cause, and that is fostered by a sense of engagement and trying to make life all that it can be. Even in the most difficult of times.

From the Care Home view:

1. Leadership – Having the right view from the top of the care home structure allows the best and the right decisions to be made. So it is vital that the leadership structure is focused on the needs of residents and has the capability to support them.

2. Team Game – It is important to work together, whether from management through staff, and from carers to clients. There needs to that sense of mutual respect and of togetherness.

3. Relationship-centered care – Residents need to feel that sense of relationship and rapport with the home and with the staff. So there is an emphasis on the ways in which relationships are managed and fostered. With good relationships comes good care.

4. Skills – There is of course, the need for the right qualifications and experience – but there are skills too. The skills to reach out to residents, to make them feel all those things in the list above – to deal with empathy, care, consideration and compassion.

5. Staff – These skills come from the right people, and from staff feeling that they themselves are part of the team and are looked after, respected and recognised too. Like any equation, you have to deal with both sides to get the right answer. There can be no excellence without residents feeling their needs are addressed, and the right staff, who feel engaged and supported are vital in that too.

It is no easy task to manage the needs of both medical care and hospitality –but that is so often the tough question being asked. What do you think? How does your organisation deal with the challenges? We would love to hear from you.