Do you remember that old musical starring Audrey Hepburn – ‘My Fair Lady'? The main character, Eliza Doolittle, fantasises about a place that is secure and comfortable; a place that is warm, where she has not just what she needs, but also some simple luxuries. A place where she can do what she wants and where she can be herself.

That’s the intent of Standard Five.

standard 5

Eliza really encapsulates the consumer statement: I feel I belong and I am safe and comfortable in the organisation’s service environment.

We all know that feeling we get when visiting house of a good friend. The understanding between us to make ourselves at home, put the kettle on and make a cuppa. That’s the sort of feeling we want to evoke in clients who use our services. While we can’t always address what happens in the person’s home we can support them in our service centres. But how do we do that?

Firstly, let’s look at your staff.

It’s really important to have staff who are welcoming and who make the client feel at home. Perhaps that means having staff who are drawn from the same cultural background as your clients, who speak their language. Having familiar sounds and language can be very comforting. While this is particularly important for those who are living in a residential facility, it is also relevant for clients accessing day services from your centre.

If possible, ensure that your direct care staff are able to support clients to use their language of choice. This might mean either employing staff from that language group, staff who can speak the language and understand the cultural norms, or engaging with volunteers from the person’s culture who can support the client.

It’s also important that care staff understand the value of independence for consumers – that they support, but do not take over from them when delivering services. Encouraging clients to make their own tea or coffee not only assists in making them feel more ‘at home’ in the centre, it promotes independence, as well as freeing up staff to assist clients with higher support needs.

What about the service environment?

‘The organisation provides a safe and comfortable service environment that promotes the consumer’s independence, function and enjoyment.'

I remember the ‘old days’ of nursing homes, where clinical care was often deemed the most important aspect of caring for a person at the end of their days. Nursing homes were almost an extension of hospitals, very clinical and clean. Whilst clinical care is still an important aspect, as noted in last week’s post, and the need for cleanliness is a given, we now recognise that our elders are not necessarily ‘sick’ and in need of nursing care, they seek support and comfort to enjoy this stage of their life, to live it as independently as possible.

Do you need to make changes to support your clients to be more independent?

I remember a person telling me about their brother who was a wheelchair user. In his home environment, he was totally independent, living alone, cooking and caring for himself in a unit that catered to his disability.

However, when he visited and stayed with his parents he became dependent, due to a building that didn’t address his needs. The same is true for our clients. If our service environments (our entrances, vehicles and bathrooms) do not take into consideration the limitations of clients who use the centre, we make people dependent.

How does the service centre look?

Consider the facility you operate out of. Is it clean and uncluttered? By removing the chaos and disorder of clutter in your centres, you minimise slip and trip risks. An uncluttered environment also supports people with dementia and those who have impaired vision.

Take a look around your centre. Are there clear pathways to key areas? Are clients able to get to seating without having to navigate around too many obstacles?

What about noise levels? Do you have areas that cater for people who prefer a quiet location away from television or group activity noise? Is there a place where people can participate in quiet conversation or simply rest and enjoy their surroundings? The inclusion of gardens or potted plants and outdoor rooms that exclude flies and other flying pests, especially in dry remote areas, can provide a welcome visual, environmental and psychological relief to people.

Does your service centre support your clients to participate in preferred activities in a safe manner? What if your clients ask for cultural activities, such as having a fire pit for cooking roo tails or to heat the wire to burn holes in the bush beans to create beads? While some services will choose to veer away from higher risk activities, if managed correctly through the use of good design and appropriate supervision, this sort of activity can elevate your service environment, giving enjoyment to clients, connecting them with culture in a safe and supported way.

So take a look around you.

  • How do your clients use the service environment?
  • Is there anything that you need to address to make it safer or more accessible?
  • Are your staff supporting independence and encouraging clients to feel at home?
  • Ask the users of your service if there is anything they would like changed, that could make the place better or more welcoming.

Let’s make our service centres feel like a second home for those seeking our support.

We hope you enjoyed this article on the fifth Standard. This blog post is part of a series on the New Aged Care Standards, where we investigate how and why they were developed and take an in depth look at each of the Standards to give you ideas for implementing these effectively within your organisation. If this is of relevance to you and you’re not signed up for our short email alerts, fill in the quick form at the bottom of the page and we will let you know when the next post is released. We also send a monthly round up of blog posts and videos.

Other posts in this series

Why Do We Need New Aged Care Standards?

What Difference will the New Aged Care Standards make to Consumers?

What Impact Will The New Aged Care Standards Have On Your Organisation?

‘What About Me?' – Consumer Dignity & Choice | New Aged Care Standard #1

‘We're All In This Together' – Ongoing Assessment & Planning | New Aged Care Standard #2

‘Stand By You' – Personal Care & Clinical Care | New Aged Care Standard #3

‘Help me get my feet back on the ground' – Services & Supports for Daily Living | New Aged Care Standard #4

‘Who Ya Gonna Call?' – Feedback & Complaints | New Aged Care Standard #6

‘Lean On Me' – Human Resources | New Aged Care Standard #7

‘The Greatest Show' – Organisational Governance | New Aged Care Standard #8

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