Mindfulness in the care home - why choice can be a good thing
Structure and routine are necessary tenets for every care home. But a lot is to be gained from any attempt to give residents choice. Decision making can be empowering, and, research suggests, can extend life too....
10th May 2012
As care workers, we aim to keep people as happy and comfortable as possible; attending to personal care, making sure no-one is hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, or plagued by bedsores.
This is a good thing. Care homes that don't look after their patients are tragic and reprehensible.
However, when you have reached the point that you need to live in a care home, you lose much of the control you have over your life. Many of your needs are fulfilled when time allows, rather than at a time you would choose yourself.
The little eccentricities and daft choices you like to make for fun (eating only biscuits for dinner or taking a midnight walk) are harder to carry out; whether because of your loss of mobility, sense impairment, staffing or a communication problem.
The way that we behave defines who we are and controlling this is important to us. A 1970's study by Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin looked into the health impact of choice in behaviour.
Two groups of elderly people on two different floors in a care home were studied.
One group was given a plant each, told they had to watch films on a particular night and that their rooms had been arranged for them in the best way.
The other group got to choose which plant they wanted to look after, choose which night they'd watch films and choose how they wanted their rooms arranged.
18 months later, guess which group had twice as many people still alive?
Yep, the second.
Another study by Langer also showed that choices and control resulted in less need for pain and sedative medication too.
As care home workers, we work really hard to make sure everything is done by the book to the best of our ability. It's not a bad thing in itself.
But have a think about how your care home is run. Can you instigate some extra choice and control for the residents? It might take a little time for everyone to get used to new routines but the way your residents flourish will be worth it!