Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Craving Connection, Fulfilling Personalisation

Part of being human is the craving for social contact. You only have to look at the way modern technology has evolved over the last few years a social networking sites have evolved (remember that time when Friends Reunited was all the rave!).

We now Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or whatever to maintaining our social circle and, to some extent expand it. Of course it is not just our P.C. that allows us to do this, the vast array of mobile devices allow us to tell the world where we are, what we are up to etc. as well as giving us the chance to check on what are friends and wider social network are doing.

The technology, however, only facilitates this inner desire, this craving for relationships and social contact that is present, to some degree in all of us and has existed since the emergence of man. Family, community, society are hardly the constructs of those who crave isolation.

And if we need to identify  the truth of this  we only need t look at how we punish people - we "send them to Coventry", we ignore them, in prison we use solitary confinement.

Maslow puts this need for connection firmly in the middle of in his classic Hierarchy of Needs, Professor Stephen Reiss identified social contact as one of the 16 basic desires that define our personalities and motivate our actions, the New Economics Foundation identify connecting with people as one of the five ways to wellbeing.

So why don’t we focus enough on this in social care?

Remember the recent Panorama programme where the two care workers roughly washed the resident? When they were doing this they busily maintained their own social relationship by talking in their own language while failing to talk to the individual they were supposed to be caring for? Maybe an extreme example but how many times do we hear of care home residents all sitting around in large lounges in silence? How many times do we hear of cases where care in a person’s home is restricted to 15 minutes or so giving the care worker little or no time to interact with the individual or complaints from care service users that they never know who is going to turn up to care for them?

Part of the problem is, perhaps, that some elements of social care are still to firmly rooted in the medical model of care. Clinical detachment in the health professions serves a purpose, it helps to insulate health professionals from the trauma of getting to attached to people likely to suffer great pain or die, it prevents the psychological transference of distress from those suffering to the professional who, for their own sanity, must remain outside the constant bombardment of anguish and agony not only from the patients but their traumatised families.

Yet can this clinical detachment work in social care? No, for many different reasons. Firstly the clue is in the name SOCIAL Care, social care is not the same as health care, that is the responsibility of the health professionals, social care is about supporting people in their everyday lives, helping them maintain connection with the wider world or, if that is not possible, ensuring that they are able to live as full and active life as possible in their individual circumstances.

We are, by nature, social creatures and while the degree that socialisation is needed by individuals vary, quality social contact still forms an important part of our lives. How can we know what level of social relationship individuals need unless we make the effort to establish a significant relationship to find out?

Personalisation is the social care buzzword at present and it is a goal that we should strive to achieve but how can we provide personalisation through clinical detachment? We need to build relationships with care users to understand their personal needs but more importantly to provide them with the type of social relationship that is cornerstone of being human.