What makes a care home, a home?

I’ve visited so many care homes over the last few years, but not all, if I’m honest, have felt like real homes. There is SO MUCH stigma around care homes and what they are like though that I wanted to celebrate some of the things I’ve consistently noticed in the care homes I love. The ones who make a big effort to make their environment as homely as possible, and therefore mean their residents have a great quality of life.

residents enjoy a joke in the living room at Brambles care home Leigh-on-Sea

The first thing I always notice when I walk in to a care home is the smell. It gives away more than any other factor, what the home is really like. I always love walking in and smelling those plug in air fresheners or scented candles – that’s when you know a home has really considered their environment! Having said that, smelling something tasty cooking for lunch is always good!

The second thing I notice is the staff, their general demeanor and attitude toward their residents. There’s a saying that care staff are taught early on about the care home being the residents home, not their work place and it’s always the homes that adhere closest to this idea that feel the nicest. It’s in the way staff talk to residents, with respect and consideration, sharing a joke or having some banter. It’s in the way staff love around residents, not being shy about giving affection, offering an arm in support while residents walk or holding a hand while they ask a resident a question. It’s in their patience, their compassion and showing they care.

join the circle sessions promote bonds between care staff and residents

Personally, I love it when a home has a pet! A cat that’s allowed to roam around or a dog that sits by feet. I see how much pleasure residents get from keeping the animal fed and watered and how they chat to their companion. Pets bring so much joy.

It’s a small thing but small furnishings make such a difference! Cushions and curtains and carpets that aren’t made of wipe down material that give a space a comfy and cosy feel rather than being one step up from a hospital. I know this is largely down to a home’s budget, but anything that gives a home individuality and personality makes a big difference to its residents.

Homes that are places of creativity, and fun, with activities programs and regular visitors and trips out mean that residents are part of a community. They aren’t isolated but are given opportunities to interact with peers and visiting professionals. I’ve witnessed homes provide activities ranging from cookery, gardening, crafts, exercise, reading cinema and games as well as providing trips to the theatre, the seaside and local clubs. All of these activities help residents retain a sense of their identity and enable them to learn new things – they haven’t stagnated but are allowed to continue to grow as people.

dementia friendly dance in southend-on-sea

Finally, it’s the little touches within a home, that you may not become aware of until your fifth visit. The candle that is lit when someone is close to passing and invites you to give a prayer or a well wish at Palmerston Care Home in Southend, the sweets and fruit that is available for residents to help themselves to at Broomhills in Rochford, the residents helping with the washing up at The Brambles in Leigh-on-Sea. All these things bring character and a sense of belonging. They all make a care home, a home.