Care homes across the UK are being urged to encourage their residents to take ‘positive risks’ because it gives them more and choice and control over their lives.
Anne Kelly, a registered nurse and Montessorian ‘aged-care’ expert believes care homes need to think about how much they could be restricting the freedom of their residents.
She said: “It amuses me how much we give people who have been cutting things out for 60 years plastic scissors.
“This explains how crazy sometimes our industry has gone. It’s a bit like saying people with dementia can’t iron. If they have been ironing for 60 years, why can’t they iron?”
The Montessorian method of caring celebrates the independence of the elderly, and Ms Kelly is shocked how easily this can be taken away in care home environments.
“Why do we think someone with dementia is going to pick up a knitting needle and start stabbing someone when they have been using them for most of their lives?” Ms Kelly said.
The Montessorian expert is concerned the UK care industry and other developed countries have gone into health and safety overdrive.
Ms Kelly said: “People have the right to take risks. Yes. It’s important that things are risk assessed, but in our industry, it’s gone quite made in some areas. We can’t wrap elderly people in cotton wool.”
The nurse believes care workers often have the best of intentions but can overinterpret health and safety guidelines that residents end up having everything done for them, thus losing their independence.
Ms Kelly holds the opinion that care homes are confused about safety regulations and end up ‘playing it safe.’ She said: “We are governed by legislation that’s out there, I’m certainly not saying we don’t follow legislation, but sometimes it’s the interpretation of legislation.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have legislative powers to act in the interests of safe practices in care homes, but they both encourage ‘positive risk taking.’
Agnieszka Orlowska, registered manager of Malden House, Sidmouth who recently gained an ‘outstanding’ rating from the CQC, also believes residents should be encouraged to do things they want to, even if it involves risk.
She said: “For us it is crucial to know our residents and their past, the things they loved to do, their passions and hobbies, the things they used to do with their families or important people in their lives.”