Enabling clients to make choices
In this essay I will explain and provide case studies and evidence to show how, as a senior officer working in residential care for the elderly, I can enable clients to make choices about the care they receive. Most of the client group I work with have a variety of disabilities such as Dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes, or are stroke victims and as such are extremely vulnerable. As a senior officer working with this client group I am in a position of power with a duty to provide them with a fair and ethical environment of care. As defined by the British Association of Social Workers
“The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilizing theories of human behavior and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work (2001).” http://www.basw.co.uk/articles.php?articleId=2&page=2 November 3rd 2006
But what exactly are the values of social care and how does a social worker in charge of any vulnerable client group make the right choices for each individual person as “…social work practice contains a terrible potential for the misuse of power” (Payne and Littlechild, 2000)?
At the heart of answering this question are the core values of social care that include ethics, principles, codes of practice and policies and procedures. They are an important starting point for anyone who is providing care for another and need to be looked at carefully and fully understood. Every human being has intrinsic value. All persons have a right to well being, self-fulfillment and to as much control over their own lives as is consistent with the rights of others.
Balancing the need to respect these core values along with the day to day running of a large residential home can be quite a dilemma when staff are more concerned with their own preferences at times than fully considering the those of the residents. Changing the culture within a residential home from an institution to a ‘true home’ where resident’s freedom of choice is paramount has been a difficult process over the last ten years. But with the advent of the NVQ training for a large majority of care staff, including cooks and domiciliary as well, a new culture is starting to appear. The National Minimum Standards For Care Homes For Older People clearly explain the need for freedom of choice, resident’s rights and access to privacy and dignity throughout the 38 standards. It is worth remembering the introduction to standard 12 to 15, which states
“The fact that individuals have reached a later stage of life does not mean that their social, cultural, recreational and occupational characteristics, which have taken a life time to emerge, suddenly disappear.” (Dorset County Council, 2004).
Most of the resident’s family, friends and staff are aware of the need to keep the client clean and tidy and their room smell free, bed changed, medication given on time etc. But few are aware that our duty of care is more far reaching than this and I as a senior officer have a duty to empower clients to retain their independence wherever possible. Empowerment has been defined by Braye and Preston-Shoot (1995) in terms of
“enabling people who are disempowered to have more control over their lives, to have a greater voice in institutions, service and situations which affect them and to exercise power…rather than simply being the recipients of exercised power.”
In my experience, when reviewing client’s levels of care on a regular basis, accessing the information from care staff who are working with the client on a daily basis is invaluable. I endeavour to not only empower clients but also the staff by asking them to think of ways that each of the client group they work with could benefit by...
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