Do you like to think outside the box, push outside you comfort zone, expand your horizons or perhaps extend the frontiers of your knowledge?
It seems to be a naturally occurring part of human nature to seek out new experiences and find ways to enhance our lives by discovering new things. Obviously we all do this in completely different ways. The adrenalin junkie will take to extreme sports to conquer the elements by seeking outrageously dangerous thrills, excitedly relishing the physical and mental challenge they have set themselves. Others may take joy in food, the adventure of seeking out a new restaurant, savouring the ambience, sounds and aromas surrounding whilst eagerly anticipating the new tastes they are about to experience. Others could simply be avid readers who regularly and enthusiastically, seek out new authors to stimulate their imagination and mind.
Essentially, within all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, there is a need to have new experiences to keep us from become to stale and bored with life.
Yet, when it comes to providing social care, what do we do to stimulate and expand the experiences of social care workers to keep them interested in their work and to stimulate them to encourage them to expand their horizons when it comes to how they deliver care services?
Outside of social care, many businesses go beyond general training with such things as ‘team-bonding’ activities and whilst these may have become something of a joke or simply an excuse to have a good time the principle behind the idea is a sound one. It is something different in the workplace and should, if well planned and designed, give sensory experiences that go beyond those normally experienced in the workplace.
Unfortunately regular classroom training does not usually provide the extra sensory aspect, in fact much social care training is done simply to comply with regulations rather than truly benefit the care workers. Additionally training only forms a part of the learning process and without the other elements training becomes little more than a chore, especially if it is one of those courses that has been done year after year!
Add to this the increasing pressure in care services, to do as much as possible in ever decreasing time-slots, little time is left for workers to engage in personal growth through work and take the importantly essential opportunity to reflect on the work they are doing and what they could do to improve that work.
And now to completely flip the coin – what about those we provide social care services for?
There is this public perception of older peoples’ homes being rows of old-fashioned arm chairs filled with elderly people who just sit there between getting up and going to bed. While there a many homes where that may be the case there are many that provide excellently managed activities which stimulate and stretch the minds and senses of those they care for.
There is some great work around at the moment focussing on raising awareness of loneliness amongst older people who may have no family and only see carers for brief visits. But loneliness is not just about having no-one around you. You can be lonely in a crowded space, just like those people who are left to sit around all day in those poor care homes. Loneliness is not necessarily being alone but about being engaged or stimulated in some way. In social care we need to ensure that those we provide care and support are stimulated and engaged and given the chance to have new experiences or re-live the thrills of past exploits.
Cognitive decline does not necessarily mean a loss of all the senses!
We all have a sense of adventure laying somewhere within us and that naturally stimulates our need to seek out new experiences which in turn helps us keep fresh and stops us becoming bored. Social care must be about providing those who need services with a good quality of life and that sense of adventure is an important part of that quality. Similarly we need to keep social care workers engaged and stimulated as this obviously helps in retaining staff and encouraging them to fully immerse themselves in the quality of care they provide.