Cicely Mayall and Marie Maher

‘Person-centred’ care and support is a way of thinking and doing things that sees the people using health and care services as equal partners in planning and developing the support they receive.

This means putting people and families at the centre of decisions about their care and support.

Cicely Mayall, 86, is supported at her home in Tameside in a way that illustrates what can be achieved through collaboration and how Tameside Council is embracing a person-centred approach.

Cicely is sat talking in her home with Marie Maher, one of the team who support her. They chat about their children and grandkids like old friends – it feels so much more than a professional relationship, it’s worlds away from the impersonal stereotype of home care.

Marie has been visiting Cicely for four years and over that time they’ve built up a real rapport. As Cicely explains, “it’s easy to forget it’s a business arrangement – we’re genuinely friends”.

Marie works for Direct Care Tameside Ltd, which provides home care through a contract with Tameside Council.

Over the last two years the company has embraced a ‘person-centred’ approach to social care support, moving away from a ‘time and task’ style of scheduling visits for a set length of time with a focus on predefined tasks, such as helping someone wash. Now they really explore what matters to people, the care and support they need and the outcomes they want to achieve.

Cicely said: “Before Marie I used to have lots of different people come. Now it’s more customised and I feel like there’s more contact.

“It’s the little extras that are nice, like the way Marie takes the time to put my dinner out.

“Small things show someone cares, something as simple as making the bed the way I like it makes a big difference.”

This ‘person centred’ approach means the team member better understands the needs, preferences and wishes of the person they are supporting. They learn about what the person can do for themselves, what type of support they’re receiving from friends and family and how they can best help them remain as independent as possible, as well as what is out and about in the local community which may enrich a person’s life.

Describing her daily visits Marie said: “I normally come in for an hour in the morning, make breakfast and support Cicely with her morning routine. It feels like we’re more than just a client and carer – we always have lots to talk about like our kids and my dogs.

“Some of the people we support don’t see anyone else from one day to the next, so it’s really nice to build a proper relationship with them.

“The bond that you form makes people feel comfortable and when I go home at night I’m happy because I know everyone’s fine.”

Fostering these types of relationship can lead to some unexpected results, for instance when Cicely’s care and support was being reviewed and it was noticed she didn’t use a mobile phone.

After a quick chat it became apparent that Cicely didn’t know how to use a mobile but was keen to learn. So Direct Care arranged for Cicely to have some lessons.

Cicely said: “I’d seen everyone else using one, but I’d never had one. I knew it would help me have better contact with my family.

“Now I use WhatsApp and I feel like I can send a message anytime and don’t worry that I might be disturbing people if they’re at work or busy.

“Before I couldn’t even text and it’s really helpful. Recently I knocked my phone off the hook and my daughter couldn’t ring me, but she could text my mobile to check everything was alright.

“I’ve still more to learn and want to find out about podcasts and Youtube.”

Cicely also window-shops online with her phone, browsing for items and then asking her daughter to pick them up for her.

Cicely’s story is emblematic of Direct Care’s commitment to providing ‘person-centred’ care and support.

As Rachael Duffy, Finance and Quality Assurance Manager at Direct Care, explained: “Cicely is in the driving seat, she writes her own care and support plan – everything is collaborative, it’s about making sure care and support is something done with people and not to them.

“In the past care has just been about the basics but it should be about helping people continue to live a life.

“We ask people, what would you do if you could? Then we see if we can make it happen.

“In the past a social worker would send an assessment outlining what was needed, and we couldn’t easily change that. Now we receive a care and support plan that we tailor and adapt with the person requiring support and their families to make it suit them.

“For example, we had a woman who was very anxious about her morning visits. We changed her care and support plan reducing her morning visits to three times a week but making them longer. The longer visits meant that she could take her time, relax when bathing and have her hair blow dried and her nails painted, as it was so important to her to look good.

“We want to support people to have a life rather than just be alive. This is how I’d like my support to be when the time comes.”

Additional time is used and paid for flexibly according to the needs and preferences of the individual, which ensures a real focus on the health and wellbeing of the people support is provided to.

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