7 October 2020

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Jenny Kartupelis (1979) previously wrote a blog post for Emmanuel about her upcoming book:Making Relational Care Work for Older People.  Here, she tells us more about the topics covered by her now–published book which feels extremely relevant amidst the pandemic. 

A couple of months ago, I wrote for this blog about the effect of the pandemic on older people in care environments, and the tally of mounting deaths.  After some respite, it is more than worrying that elderly citizens may be facing the same threats again this winter, even as Amnesty have just reported on their serious concerns about processes followed during the first wave. 

It bears repeating that one of the factors in this tragedy may be an unspoken—even unconscious—attitude that older people are somehow less valuable to society. This is an attitude that spills over into a similar dismissal of care workers as ‘unskilled’ or easily replaceable. As I wrote previously: ‘The stand–out finding of my research [extensive interviews with older people, carers and relatives] 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.’ These bonds of understanding defy ageism by enabling perceptions of common humanity and fostering mutual affection that grows with time.

The book based on this research has now been published by Routledge. Making Relational Care Work for Older People is not only a commentary on the policy and history of elder care, but also offers a great deal of practical advice on creating environments that favour supportive relationships. For example, the physical design of a care home has a significant impact, with factors such as quiet communal rooms, the arrangement of chairs, ‘porous’ but safe access to kitchens, use of residents’ own artworks, positioning of the TV, being just some examples of ensuring a building is a ‘home’ and not a ‘hotel’.

Another section explores innovative approaches such as introducing Montessori principles into dementia care, thus restoring agency and a greater recognition of individuality; developing intergenerational models; and re–assessing ways of measuring the rather slippery concept of ‘wellbeing’. There is also a chapter devoted to the question ‘Technology: Friend or Foe?’, written by Dr Lorraine Morley, Lead for the Cambridge–based AgeTech Accelerator project. She reviews a host of technical advances, some of which have spun out of the University, and what they might offer in the future to improved relational care.

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