This blog is the first in a series responding to the RSA's work on reimagining the care home as part of the Health as a Social Movement Programme.
“I would never put my parents into a care home.”
How many times have you heard that sentence, or even uttered it yourself?
We don’t see the action of moving into residential care as a positive choice actively taken by individuals but as a forced, guilty decision made by relatives at the end of their rope.
Let’s be honest, nobody wants to live in a care home so why are we propping up a sector that is selling a product people don’t want to buy?
We don’t deny that care homes are run by people who really do care. The problem is they’re running outdated institutions where nobody wants to live, and many of them are failing. Families resent losing inheritance to these costly, grim places, and the Government is putting together yet another Green Paper because they lack the answers.
In any other market they would be allowed to fall by the wayside and be replaced by stronger competitors who meet consumer demand. Just look at how the retail and hospitality sectors respond to market challenges and evolve their businesses accordingly.
Small households: a positive movement
But all is not lost. There is a positive movement happening internationally and much to learn from it. There is clear demand for small household living, with examples here in the UK as well as in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
The common themes are:
small numbers of residents living in a family setting over institutions;
residents dictating household rhythms rather than the organisation
homes are located in urban environments, where residents are part of the community (inside and out)
self-managed teams of universal workers who provide a safety net when needed, acting as a friend, advocate and confidante
hospitality NOT care focus – active participation and involvement in everyday activities and decisions are encouraged
It’s about making ageing positive, creating an aspirational vision of later life, and giving people housing choices that free them up to pursue a life with meaning and purpose.
Bringing change to the UK
This is exactly what we’re doing at Evermore.
We are passionate about abolishing institutions and creating spaces that provide physical, mental and emotional nourishment.
Our communities are based on the small household model and provide a family-style environment for older people who are on their own and finding it increasingly difficult to cope without help.
People can either rent or buy an apartment in an Evermore community but this apartment forms part of a small household community where everyone has an equal part to play.
Our staff, known as Mulinellos, are multi-skilled workers whose sole reason for being is to enable older people to live a happy and meaningful life. And because our households are small, Mulinellos have time to really get to know every customer and develop a deep understanding of their needs.
This approach sounds like common sense to most people outside of the sector, but it’s being viewed as a radical and risky option because it looks different to the norm.
Devolution offers opportunities
Luckily, we’re working with brave and open-minded individuals in Greater Manchester who are using devolution as a platform to trial new ways of doing things.
The first Evermore community will launch in Wigan in 2019 and we’re actively looking at sites in Stockport and Trafford.
Alongside this, we’re working with the NHS to reimagine intermediate and long-term care, using the flexible design of Evermore’s small household model to transform the patient experience.
This work involves converting a traditional NHS ward into a more home-like setting to provide an environment more conducive to older people recovering after a hospital stay. The goal is to improve their health and wellbeing, while also tackling challenges like delayed discharges from hospital.
A call to arms
Older age is still a time of growth and opportunity, and it should remain so for all.
We need to stop talking and start doing in partnership with older people, who have the best ideas about how they want to live their lives.
We’re all on the ageing trajectory and if only for purely selfish reasons, we will want a thriving sustainable HUMAN system by the time we need care and support – won’t we?
Read more about the RSA's work on Reimagining the Care Home in this blog by Research Assistant Becca Antink
Read more about the RSA's work on Health as a social movement
Follow the RSA on Twitter and stayed tuned for the next blog in the series