With a general election looming in the United Kingdom, and with the US having recently elected a new President, studies show that when care home residents engage in politics, the effects can be surprising.
The challenges of providing social care in homes and residential units is often about balance. Enhancing the day to day experience of many older and disabled people is often overlooked, with so many challenges – but life is to be lived, and residents need to feel a positive role in society.
A new study by Social Care Works, has stressed the importance of care home residents being able to vote, and of the uplifting effects of engaging with politics – even for those who may feel isolated and distanced from society.
Sara Livadeas a consultant at Social Care Works, recently said that, “people cannot be deprived of their right to vote, and everyone in residential care should be given the chance”.
CARING COMMUNITIES IN CARE HOMES
Care homes are communities within communities, and have a vital role to play for people who would otherwise face isolation and declining health. People living in care homes have some time on their hands, and this can be spent learning about the issues which are faced in an election and of how politics effects life.
Livadeas, again says that, “very often residential or retirement home residents are people who have been around the block a few times. They know their own minds and generally don’t suffer fools”.
So the most obvious thing to do is to bring them face to face with politicians. The study encourages care homes to reach out to politicians to get them to actually visit the residents.
The effects are two fold – the visits by candidates can bring some much needed positivity and excitement to a care home. The residents benefit from this activity. While, in addition, it can mean that people begin to see and understand that care home residents still have opinions, are still part of society and their votes count.
One suggestion is to create “voting champions” in care homes. These can be members of staff, volunteers or even residents. They help residents to register to vote, organise debates in the care homes, invite candidates to come in to meet residents, and support people to go out and vote on the day, or make postal votes.
This creation of voting champions also reportedly raised the profile of residents as citizens and reminded people of their rights. Deciding who to vote for is a very personal decision and a fundamental expression of individuality. The process really brings out who people are, what they value and what they want for the future. To encourage care home residents to be able to think in this way can be a real boost for confidence. For people with memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, this can be a really important process, and can help bring memories to the surface.
ORGANISING THE VOTE FOR THE ELDERLY
To support a voting campaign in a care home, organisers first need to make sure residents are registered to vote. People cannot be deprived of their right to vote unless they are in prison, and it is vital that everyone living in residential care is given the chance to exercise their democratic right. Some residents may wish to have a postal vote, and for others you will need to organise transport to the polling station on Election Day.
Whatever the political persuasion, taking the opportunity to make a day of it and have some fun: putting up posters, organising a debate, and catching up with the news is a great way to encourage positive interaction for residents.
What do you think? Does politics help people discover their personalities, and can it help make life better for those who live in care? We would love to hear your thoughts.