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Advice line: Katherine Santos provides insight into working in care homes

Working in care homes has given Katherine Santos a unique insight into the sector.

‘Put the elderly in prison’ was the heading of a recent post that caught my attention on Facebook. This shocking statement was clarified by the explanation that at least in prison older people would receive daily showers, three meals per day, library access, and on-site doctors, and all for free. 
 
Conversely, the post also suggested that prisoners would have a less pleasant experience if placed in a care home environment. It concluded by saying ‘It’s pretty bad that we treat prisoners better than the older people … like and share if you agree.’ Having recently started working for the Berkshire West care home support team, it saddened me to think that this is the public perception of what life can be like for many older adults once they leave the comfort of their own home.
 
Since beginning my role in June 2015, I have visited a wide range of residential and nursing homes providing care for a variety of residents with diverse mental and physical needs. 
 
The jail analogy may once have held true, but it would seem that gradually this culture is changing. Working alongside several specialist companies, it has been exciting to see how the latest advances in technology have enabled us to provide seating for the most complex of patients, revolutionising the way in which staff are able to provide care.  
 
The staff are generally very caring, but often lack confidence and skills in certain areas. We have provided advice, support and training on topics including positioning, contracture management, falls, exercise and activity. 
 
In one care home that specialises in people with dementia, upskilling the staff in how to carry out an exercise class has had a massive impact on the residents’ quality of life. To an outsider watching as we danced with the residents and kicked a beach ball around the room, this would have been far from a scene expected in a prison! 
 
I am hopeful that in years to come these homes will become the heart of the community rather than a place to be feared.
 
  • Katherine Santos, specialist physiotherapist, care home support team, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust
 

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