In the Social Care sector, it’s about time

An article in the Independent from 10 May highlights the plight of care home residents following a survey and report by the Care Support Alliance (CSA).  The report tells us the survey of 4000 adults who have experienced adult social care found that

  • 20% had gone without meals
  • 25% had gone without basic needs such as washing, getting dressed or going to the toilet
  • 25% needed hospital treatment
  • 5% had been delayed leaving hospital because of not being able to get the care they needed
  • 16% had care packages reduced despite their needs for care increasing or at least being the same and 40% said they felt lonely or isolated.

One care home resident told researchers “I haven’t been washed for over two months. My bedroom floor has only been vacuumed once in three years. My sheets have not been changed in about six months, and my pyjamas haven’t been changed this year. My care workers don’t have time for cleaning, washing or changing me.”

For me, much of what is problematic about the findings is boiled down to the last sentence – “My care workers don’t have time…”

A personal view

My mother passed away in the middle of last year after being diagnosed with cancer. In the 6 months before she died, she had a small group of care workers who came over to her home and provided care services for her.  I met with quite a few of them over this time and they were all amazing people, caring, friendly, professional and extremely overworked.

The tasks needed to care for someone are not always difficult or onerous, however they all need significant time to be done well.  Time is always in short supply because of all the other activities that carers must also complete to keep on the right side of government regulations and employer requirements.  An activity which takes 10 minutes to complete can also require the same, if not more time to write down.

In the same way an important activity missed due to time constraints or the patient not being available to be treated can take as much time to capture than performing the task itself. I saw all this for myself, sitting beside my mother at her home while the carers provided her with the best care they could with the time they had at hand.

Technology is part of the solution

As someone who has spent the bulk of his working life in IT, I can be accused of leaning on Maslow’s Hammer, but in this case the hammer does hit the nail squarely on the head. The way to allow carers to give the best quality care while also ensuring they collect information demanded by management, government, patients and family members/guardians is to give them systems which accelerates and simplifies the process of data collection and submission.

While this is not a panacea to all the ills in the sector, it does go a long way to lifting the overall level of care provided.  In addition, such a system should also provide care organizations with many other benefits, in areas like initial assessment and care plan development, asset/building management, incident records and follow up, and care quality assessments.

The Social Care system overall needs more funding. The problems highlighted in the CSA article do not require rocket science to fix.  Most of them merely require time – time for the carers, be they in care homes or in the homes of the cared-for, to get through the tasks with the professionalism and compassion most of them would dearly like to achieve.