It Ain’t Necessarily So – 14: Do residents have the right to do as they like in their own rooms?
with JOHN BURTON
All of us should consider what we would want if and when we go to live in a care home. I don’t think I’d be an easy resident. If I was told, “There are no rules here,” I’d need to see if that was true. And if I was given a list of rules of the house, I’d want to test every one.
I like a cigar occasionally, and some good beer, whisky or rum more than occasionally. I drink pints of tea, so I’ve got to have a kettle and teapot, and a fridge for milk, ice and any little snacks I fancy. I’m a bit of a hoarder and I’m not very tidy. Although I usually keep fairly regular hours, I like to go to bed and get up late when I feel like it.
I would want my pictures on the walls, and I like the window open at night and wide open in the summer. No, I do not want a restrictor on my window. I want pure cotton sheets and pillowcases . . . OK, I’ll bring my own, but you’d better not muddle them up with anyone else’s. I’ll have a phone, telly, and computer. I listen to Radio 4 for hours on end, sometimes to the World Service at night when I can’t sleep. I expect privacy.
If I have my wife, family, friends, or neighbours (in the home) in my room at any time, I do not expect to be disturbed. I’ll come and go as I want and if I want to stay out late, that’s my business. As I understand it, I have exactly the same rights to live my life as I want and to use my premises (whether owned or rented) as I had before I came to the home.
Well? Do you think you’ll be able to cope? Y ou see, what’s most important is your attitude. If you start laying down the law (rules) and tell me what I can and can’t do, I can be as unreasonable as you – probably more! But, if you understand and respect my position, and value my self-determination, we’ll get on like a house on fire . . . Yes, I might even agree to give up the cigars! And I’ll be a real asset to the home. A resident’s room in a care home is their own private space over which they should have control, but different levels and areas of privacy, ownership and control matter to different people. So, be reasonable, be flexible, balance safety with freedom and self-determination, and, of course, with the care and welfare of the resident . . . which is why they are living at your home in the first place.
We found a different way: Caring Times readers tell their stories
Care home manager: This can be a very contentious issue with infection control. Carpets in bedrooms? Oh the shame. Impervious wipeable flooring is what I’m expected to use. Do my residents want this? No. All their little nick-nacks that make rooms home from home? Too much clutter! A breeding zone for germs. But my residents want their possessions in their rooms.
To me, this home is their home. They can invite family and friends round. I provide refreshments at no extra cost. They can bring a pet to live with them if we are able to accommodate (clearly a Great Dane may cause some upset). They can have their room redecorated to suit, buy their own carpet, have SKY TV and telephones . . . anything they want really as long as it’s not ridiculous.
As I see it, their room is the only space they can call their very own, and as such it should be individual and unique to each and every resident. Usually though, when I visit other care homes, rooms are just like the Holiday Inn with a couple of discreet personal effects. Perish the thought that someone would bring their own bedding that doesn’t match our colour scheme!
Sometimes I think I’m becoming a little cynical, but after 28 years working in care, I guess this can happen. My focus always has been and always will be the care and well-being of my residents. I’m not perfect and neither are my staff team but they work hard and give their best; in return their greatest reward is the feedback from residents and relatives. That’s why we do this job, it certainly isn’t the ‘flexible’ hours and crappy pay!
Team leader: I work in a home for people who have an alcohol addiction, so it wouldn’t make sense to tell residents they can do as they like in their own rooms. We don’t allow alcohol on the premises and when people come here they know that. We don’t allow drugs or tobacco either.
There’s a smoking shelter in the garden and we keep people’s cigarettes for them. I’ve worked in old people’s homes where sometimes you have residents who have abused alcohol. That can be difficult because unless you get the agreement of residents before they come, you can’t very well turn round and say you can’t have alcohol in your room, or you can’t do this or that, when everyone else is free to do as they like. It’s got to be an individual thing and it’s really got to be agreed with residents and worked at. Another thing to be considered is whether the private behaviour – drinking is only one example – is actually that harmful. Lots of people drink to excess, but we don’t break into their houses and confiscate their booze.