6 August 2020

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Jenny Kartupelis (1979) is an author, who has recently written about relational care. Here, she tells us about outcomes of her research into care for older people, and how COVID–19 has brought this discussion into wider focus. 

An elderly person sitting, and holding the hand of a younger personLike a kaleidoscope, the pandemic has taken all the fragments of our lives and thrown them into new patterns.  One of the issues that has risen to the top, and caught the light of publicity at last, is the whole question of how we treat & value older people in this country. Discharged from hospital without testing, to free up beds for COVID–19 patients, some may have brought the infection into care homes; while locum carers may also have unwittingly carried it.  Whatever the process, the result has been tens of thousands of elderly deaths in care environments. 

As a result of a survey that I was commissioned to do by Abbeyfield—a charity which owns numerous care homes in the UK and abroad—I have been writing on relationships between elderly people, carers & society for some years now. The stand–out finding of my research was that the best outcomes for all concerned are achieved by ‘relational care’—that is, the building of trust and mutual knowledge over a period of time, creating a supportive network and ‘family’ of wellbeing.

My next book, Making Relational Care Work for Older People was published in autumn 2020, and offers practical advice on how to create environments that favour good care. For instance, quite a few of us have rediscovered during lockdown, the pleasures of cooking & sharing food, but may not until now have thought much about the great variety of impacts that good nutrition can have on our lives. Getting everything right about serving meals in care settings can have a massive impact, not only on physical health, but also on mental & emotional wellbeing. This is just one example: the rather obvious & more subtle factors that influence relationships will be the subject of another blog. 

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