Gloucestershire County Council plans to develop alternative care options for people to remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and provide more specialist care homes for those with complex conditions.

This month, Gloucestershire County Council has published an Older People Care Home Strategy.  The strategy was informed by a survey that was carried out by research consultancy Evolving Communities and the county’s independent health and social care champion Healthwatch Gloucestershire on behalf of Gloucestershire County Council.

Older people in care homes, lunch clubs and support groups, as well as those in ethnic and minority groups, were given the opportunity to have their say on Gloucestershire County Council’s plans for over 65s care provision and to share their own experiences.

The county council and other health and social care organisations in Gloucestershire have committed to help older adults remain in their communities for as long as possible, providing more specialist nursing homes for those with long term conditions such as dementia.

Dr Sara Nelson, from Evolving Communities, explained: “There is a drive both nationally and locally to keep people in their own homes and out of residential care.  However, the number of over 65s with dementia is predicted to increase from 9,500 to 14,000 and the number of over 65s living with a long-term illness is likely to increase from 26,900 to 37,000 by 2030.

“As the population of Gloucestershire ages, the number of older carers aged 65 plus is also expected to rise from an estimated 18,400 people to 25,000, of which over a quarter are predicted to be over-80s and may require extra support to provide care.”

The findings from the survey have now gone into the Older People Care Home Strategy, which reveals:

  • Almost 80% of people said they had concerns about moving into a care home, with the fear of losing their independence the top worry.
  • A constant theme running through the engagement was loneliness – with many care home residents saying they still felt isolated despite being surrounded by others.
  • Having a range of activities was important to care home residents, as well as access to good transport, shops and a GP surgery within easy reach.
  • The top expectation of a care home was to have good quality care from friendly staff.
  • The most important requirement for people in a care home was to have en-suite facilities.
  • Keeping active was a major priority as well as continued links to hobbies and local groups, including visits from children and animals.

Alongside the survey, focus groups were held with people from minority ethnic communities and LGBT people.

The results of the engagement have been published in a new report Attitudes towards care homes amongst minority and LGBT people in Gloucestershire, and it highlights that people from these groups worried about the same challenges of ageing as the wider population but some issues are exacerbated because of their ethnicity, language, gender or sexual orientation:

  • People from minority ethnic groups described a tradition of family caring for older relatives but they all reported a generational shift as children moved away and having families where both parents were working.
  • LGBT Communities were concerned about prejudice and abuse in care homes, both from fellow residents and staff.  They felt conditions such as dementia may make them even more open to abuse/more vulnerable.
  • All participants wanted assurance that care home staff would have a good understanding of a resident’s culture, religion and personal care needs, as being able to meet these needs would ensure dignified care.

One Polish woman from Gloucestershire interviewed said: “I think the problem is that when you’re older and you’re an immigrant, it accelerates the process of ageing, especially with your mental health.”

An older gay man from Gloucestershire spoke about the concept of LGBT-friendly care homes, he said: “I think that a lot of gay people would say they don’t want to be in a gay ghetto – somewhere you can only go if you’re gay.  It should be the same as having a gay pub.  It doesn’t exclude other people, but if you’re homophobic, don’t come.”

Based on the research findings, Evolving Communities and Healthwatch Gloucestershire have recommended:

  • Commissioners recognise the importance of older people’s social wellbeing and explore how they can better support those at risk of feeling lonely.
  • Paid or voluntary companions in each care home to combat feelings of loneliness felt by so many.
  • Develop training for care home staff around supporting residents transitioning from their own homes into care homes.
  • Consider the size of the homes when commissioning new complexes – most people interviewed preferred a small to medium building.
  • Encouraging more community involvement such as shared activities like exercise classes, reading groups, hobby clubs and school visits.
  • Consider age-friendly cities and towns in Gloucestershire, where people of all ages are encouraged to actively keep healthy and active.
  • Care home staff and decision-makers need to have a good understanding of cultures, religious rituals as well as personal care needs of those in ethnic and minority groups.
  • Help frail, older people in ethnic and minority groups feel connected by helping them attend community and religious meetings; celebrating cultural and religious events and providing carers who speak their language and share their culture.

Cllr Roger Wilson, cabinet member for adult social care commissioning said: “It’s clear from what people have told us that they wish to keep their independence and stay in their own home where possible rather than move to a care home.  Together with our NHS partners we will design a care system which supports these wishes, and which also makes sure that people who have more complex, long term care needs can access the support they need locally, when they need it.”

The full report is available at: https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/media/2090287/care-home-strategyjune5.pdf

Read more about the work that Evolving Communities and Healthwatch Gloucestershire contributed to this project in our portfolio.

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