Researching in care homes – what was learnt from a study of handovers?

Caroline NorrieCaroline Norrie is Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London (330 words)

What can researchers of care services learn from our recent handover study?  We asked ourselves this question and discussed this at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology held in Swansea last week (pictured below is the new beach side campus) at the start of July. Our paper summarised the findings of our unique exploration into handovers in care homes and then we paused to ask what could be relevant to other researchers studying care home practice and systems. Continue reading

Older People & Human Rights

Dr Joan RapaportJoan Rapaport reports from the 9th Annual Joint Conference of Age UK London, the Social Care Workforce Research Unit and Making Research Count. (1,789 words)

The conference, held on the Guy’s Campus of King’s College London, was chaired by Jo Moriarty, Deputy Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, and attracted a capacity audience. Speakers’ presentations are available on the SCWRU conference webpage.

Human Rights Act: overview of current changes: Caroline Green, PhD student, Social Care Workforce Research Unit

Whilst human rights have been around for hundreds of years both globally and in Britain, Caroline acknowledged that our understanding mostly relates to post World War II developments. The European Convention on Human Rights, drafted in 1950, contains numbered ‘Articles’ each of which protects a basic human right. The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, rules on cases brought under convention from the 47 signatories. Continue reading

Building the case for housing as supporting a good old age

Fendt-Newlin et al 2016 Living well in old age-page-001The authors of Living well in old age. The value of UK housing interventions in supporting mental health and wellbeing in later life introduce the report, which is published today.

Housing in later life is more than just a roof or a matter of getting upstairs. Housing-related services can help many people by supporting their mental and physical wellbeing in later life. A newly published review of UK housing interventions focuses on their contribution to mental health in particular since this area of wellbeing often gets overlooked. Housing care and support can help people reduce the risks of depression or other problems getting worse and can make a difference in the lives of people with severe disabilities.

The review was undertaken by a research team at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. It was commissioned by HACT on behalf of a group of social housing providers and developmental bodies who are keen to place on record the many links between housing, care and health services practice (*). Continue reading

Social care, the market and the prospects for a National Care Service

John WoolhamJohn Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. (524 words)

Professor Guy Daly, Executive Dean of the Health and Life Sciences Faculty at Coventry University, Bleddyn Davies, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the Personal Social Services Research Unit and I spoke at a Research in Specialist and Elderly Care (RESEC) seminar on 10 March at the House of Lords. RESEC is a national charity whose principal aim is to promote research and teaching in social care by identifying priorities for funding and teaching and securing funds to invest in these priorities. It provides finance for agreed projects and ensures findings and outcomes are publically disseminated. Continue reading

From our annual joint conference: End of Life Care

Dr Joan RapaportThe Annual Joint Conference of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit and Making Research Count at King’s College London and Age UK London, with support from the British Society of Gerontology was held on 11 February 2016 at King’s College London. Joan Rapaport reports. (1,633 words)

By way of introduction, Professor Jill Manthorpe, Director, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, explained that the focus of the conference was on good practice in the day-to-day delivery of palliative and end of life care. The Unit’s Longitudinal Care Work Study had highlighted the importance of collaborative working between health and social care agencies and ensuring staff were prepared and supported when working with people in the last stages of life. In spite of all the bad news about social care being ‘in crisis’ and of poor quality, research has shown that four out of five people describe positive experiences: ‘We can work on the one in five’. Continue reading

Beyond measurable outputs: What matters in social work practice with older people?

Valerie D'AstousVal D’Astous is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London. (969 words)

As I walked past a small group of men for the second time, in search of the location, a cheery, ‘Can we help you luv?’ was offered. Paper in hand with the address, I knew I was close, but gladly accepted their offer. Two gentlemen ended up walking me around the corner to the place I was seeking, the Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic. ‘Hope all goes well for you,’ one gentleman wished me, as I thanked them and said goodbye. I laughed as I entered the building, the site for the Making Research Count Conference: Rethinking Social Work Practice with Older People: Threats and Opportunities. I knew I was in for a great day! Continue reading

Men? Have your circumstances changed?

Valerie LipmanDr Valerie Lipman is Honorary Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. (553 words)

We don’t see much about the lives of older men in the field of social care. The focus tends to be on older women, partly because women’s life expectancy is longer and perhaps, because in the care field, women are more visible in the traditional care settings, such as day centres and care homes. Have your circumstances changed?’, a triptych of duets between an ageing man and a boy of about 10-12 years of age, stages the daily routine of a single older man.

The three short pieces, about 15 minutes each, are set in sequence in a kitchen, living room and bathroom, showing a different older man managing life on his own. The performance takes place in the windows of a former furniture shop in a former shopping mall in Islington, north London. There’s no dialogue but just a series of noises of daily living. In the kitchen the man accidentally tips his rice crispies all over the floor, the sink gurgles, he thumps his knife into an onion, and butter splutters in a frying pan on the cooker all against the background of Radio 2. In the living room the TV blares out quiz shows, football and the Generation Game. And in the bathroom we hear the toilet flush, medicines fall out of the cabinet and imagine the scraping of shaving and the sizzing of false teeth in the glass. Continue reading

On compassionate care

Dr Joan RapaportDr Joan Rapaport reports on the seventh Annual Joint Conference of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, Making Research Count, and Age UK London (with support from the British Society of Gerontology), which took place at King’s last week. (2,508 words)

In her welcoming introduction, Professor Jill Manthorpe (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London) said the topic ‘Compassionate Care’ had been chosen to explore what we mean by compassion, where it might be needed in older people’s care, its place within the hierarchy of priorities and whether it concerns individuals or wider social relationships. She said the purpose of the conference was to find out:

  • Where is the passion in compassion?
  • Should we all be compassionate all the time?
  • Do all older people want compassion?

Continue reading

Where next for integration and funding?

John Woolham

John Woolham

Martin Stevens

Martin Stevens

It is estimated that the NHS faces a shortfall of at least £30 billion a year within a decade and possibly a deficit as high as £50 billion. Martin Stevens of King’s and John Woolham of Coventry University report on an event last month where experts debated funding and integration in health and social care. (1,369 words)

At a SSRG-SSCR event on Integration and Funding of Health and Social Care held at the LSE on 18 June José-Luis Fernandez of LSE opened with a statistical review of the decline of social care service provision since the 1980s, which had become especially marked since 2008-09 with the contraction in public spending—despite increases in the numbers of older people over this period. While this could in small part be due to better targeting and more effective services, his conclusion was that there was a great deal of unmet need in the community. Continue reading

Letter from Sarasota: support services for older people

Valerie Lipman

Valerie Lipman

Dr Valerie Lipman is a social gerontologist and independent researcher. She reports here on support services for older people in Sarasota, Florida and particularly on the growing trend there toward ‘board-and-care’ arrangements in private homes. Could we see more of this in the UK?

I’m in the old age capital of the world. Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida, USA boasts a total population of 386,147 of whom 32.5% are over the age of 65 years. And a third of that grouping is over 85 years. In the UK, the equivalent would be a town such as Christchurch in Dorset where 30% of residents are aged 65 and over. The national figure for the 65+ population in the USA is about 13%, and just under 18% for the State of Florida as a whole. This makes Florida fairly similar to the UK where the equivalent figure is just under 17%.

Older people come to Florida from across North America, and some from Europe to live here*. The sun shines most days, though it’s been a bit like England lately—teeming, non-stop rain and colourless skies. But freak days aside, it’s mostly a pleasure to wake up to.

With such a large older population the scope for delivering and trying out new support services feels almost endless. The general aim is to encourage ‘ageing in place’ and there are scores of home agencies, as well as ‘homemaker companion’ services, providing friendship and support. The former are registered services, the latter are not.

But just the same, many want or need the certainty and security of residential care. From continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) to nursing homes there are innumerable private registered bodies in the Sarasota area offering services to older people. CCRCs offer a full range of housing choices and services on one campus—from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing in an attached facility. The skilled nursing option costs $4,000-$8,000 per month in addition to entrant fees ranging from $150,000-$600,000. Assisted living facilities (support centres are called ‘facilities’ here) and memory (dementia) facilities/homes average around $3,000-$4,000 per month. There are also State-run services. Classically these are nursing homes, for which you have to demonstrate income below a certain level to qualify for what’s known as the Medicaid waiver.

But what do you do if you find yourself caught in the old eligibility trap of being too rich for Medicaid and too poor for the private homes? You could take a risk at one of a growing number of ‘private care homes’—also known as board-and-care homes. They are not the private homes of the UK that can serve any number of older people. Homeowners offer long-term personal and less regimented residence in a family friendly environment for one or two elders as a home business. These homes are not, however, regulated by the state.  They don’t have to meet any of the rigorous requirements that apply to group homes and assisted-living facilities (see Barbara Peters Smith, ‘Private-home care could become more common for elders’, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 23 January 2014).

They do, however, fill a huge need when it comes to cost. People will tend to hand over their pension to the homeowner to take care of them. No one knows how many of these homes exist. Most operate by word-of-mouth referrals and are private-pay only, but they are on the increase in an area where there is pressure on affordable places for the growing 80+ population. And like any other home the residents are dependent on the good will, attitude and behaviours of the owner/manager. Without family or friends to check out what’s going on, the scope for abuse is endless—at every possible level.

Yet, with some regulation and light-touch inspection, could this be added to the options of support for older people in the UK? It may be that Shared Lives is our take on this—an adaptation of what used to be called adult placement or adult fostering, but with the critical difference that Shared Lives arrangements are registered and regulated.

Sarasota is dealing with the complexities of an ageing population that we will have to meet in the UK in time. How to provide sufficient and varied enough facilities capable of offering security, safety and care in a homely environment that are not strangled at birth by hide-bound bureaucracy or slip into becoming exploitative ‘senior farms’?  Watch this space!

Dr Valerie Lipman is undertaking an investigation of how recent government changes in public services in the UK are impacting on BME elders. You can contact Valerie on valerielipman2003@yahoo.co.uk


*Projections from the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) show the percentage of the 65 and over population increasing to over 35% by 2020, and almost 40% in Sarasota County by 2030 BEBR, Florida Population Studies, Volume 44, Bulletin 159, June 2011.