It’s been a little while since my last blog post so I wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year before it’s too late. I hope that you had a nice rest over the festive period, whether you were working or not, and are feeling motivated for what 2018 has in store.
Prior to the Christmas break, I spent some time working hands on in one of our services which I really enjoyed. I worked alongside some very motivated staff and some fantastic people with learning disabilities.
It was really helpful and insightful to spend a concentrated period of time working in one of our services. I thought I would share with you some of the thoughts I’ve had as a result of this experience:
– Organisation is key. It is really important that there is an effective shift planning process in place which efficiently allocates staff time across the service and allows service users to be supported to participate in their activities. This is particularly important when people are out and about and need to be supported to go to a variety of different venues. I have termed the phrase ‘pleasantly bossy’ to describe the skills required of shift leaders. You do need to be quite assertive to organise colleagues on a shift and to ensure that everybody knows what they need to do and where they need to go.
– People we support are often an underused asset. For example, in the service in which I was working, there were some basic household activities that needed to be carried out like spring cleaning and of course weeding. These provided great opportunities for engaging the people we support in meaningful activity.
– I was reminded of the importance of person centred active support, which means supporting people to engage in everyday activities and always doing things with people, not for people. Household activities like menu planning, cooking, shopping, cleaning and doing the washing are very useful ways of meaningfully occupying people, as well as helping them to develop their skills and independence. One young man I worked with was particularly proud of himself for the great job he did helping to spring clean his flat.
– Basic standards of care and support are incredibly important and sometimes overlooked. By this, I mean ensuring people receive good personal care, are supported to have good oral hygiene and are encouraged to keep their flats clean and tidy with appropriate care given for people’s clothing.
– It’s important to ensure that systems don’t get in the way of people having a really good life. In services there are important things to attend to, like recording medication and service users’ financial expenditure. If you’re not careful, this can become the priority rather than people engaging in meaningful activities of their choice.
– The calibre of front line staff is essential. As well as people having good values, it’s incredibly important that we employ staff who can use their initiative and work out what needs to be done without constant guidance and direction. I’ve always been a big fan of common sense, but feel particularly strongly that this is a very important asset for front line staff.
– Most people who work in social care are well meaning and it’s important that we recognise and value what they do. Simple things like thanking people and saying ‘well done’ can easily be forgotten, but actually mean a lot.
– Some challenging behaviour can be very complicated and requires an approach that provides in-depth positive behavioural support. Some minor challenges, however, can be dealt with in a straight forward manner such as distracting the individual, changing the subject or keeping people busy and occupied with meaningful activity. I worked with a young man who can sometimes touch people inappropriately as a way of getting attention. I found having both his hands fully occupied by doing the hoovering was an effective way of stopping this behaviour and it helped him to feel involved.