Respect for each other’s work

I have been spending a lot of time recently in residential aged care homes sitting watching the people who live there and those who care for them.

It struck me as  I watched carers at work just how self-focused they had become. I watched a lifestyle staff member leading a group of people with dementia in an activity focused on Bastille Day and she was doing a good job of keeping people focused and enjoying it. However, as happens a few people became restless and began to walk away, one walking up close to someone else and causing some disturbance and another wanting to walk with a person who was listening. Someone else was snoring loudly and making it difficult for others to hear!

What is unusual about this was that there were two care staff nearby writing in files. This is a necessary part of the day but right at that moment they were treating their colleague as a “sitter”, someone to “mind” their people while they got on with their writing. This is not just a problem invovling care staff. It occurs with all staff groups.

What would have been more respectful of their colleague and more helpful in maintaining their residents in a good emotional state would be to assist their colleague by remaining engaged and attentive to what was happening in the group and intervening when needed.

Unfortunately this attentiveness can be rare, especially when staff are so focused on their own work that they lose sight of the bigger picture and the TEAM focus. Each different type of staff member contributes differently to the success of the day by assisting all others to achieve their own goals.

The consequence for the person in our care is they they are not the focus of our care attention – our job completion is. This becomes staff/organisation-centred care – not person-centred care. This is just one small way in which the institution and our work habits can get in the way of person-centred care.

What is your experience? Does this happen where you work? How can we organise our workplaces better so we have better cooperation among colleagues and more person-centred work practices?

1 thought on “Respect for each other’s work

  1. Hi Bernie, I’d like to share something I’ve developed over the years for MEN in RACF’s who are the minority and are expected to ‘fit in’. More research can be viewed by googling my name. Enjoy and promote!!


    Men with dementia in RACF’s suffer significant losses, the greatest of these is a sense of purpose, as a result, depression and “behaviours of concern” become reoccurring problems. Sadly, when men are admitted, the shed, its contents, and all associated actives are left behind.

    Men are in the minority – living in a women’s world: everything is clean, ordered, and in its place. There is no shed in sight.. He has little private space and time with other men. Activity programs cater largely for women and are alien to most men eg folding socks & setting tables. Men need to engage in activities in physical surroundings that are more familiar to them like the good old Aussie shed.

    The shed is an icon in Australian culture and an integral part of a man’s survival at home after retirement. Most houses have a shed or two attached to them. Sheds are a place where clutter, dust, odd smells, disorder and an accumulation of odds and ends are the order of the day.

    Engaging in hobbies and past interests can: reduce stress; give feelings of competency; be socially engaging and improve the quality of a bloke’s life. It’s time for men’s needs to be addressed. Every ACF needs a shed (or dedicated room) to address the special needs of its male residents. The focus should be on the person and their past achievements rather than their dementia and their losses.

    Tom Kitwood sums it up well:

    “If person-hood is to be maintained, it is essential that each individual be appreciated in his or her uniqueness. Where there is empathy without personal knowledge, care will be aimless and unfocused. Where there is personal knowledge without empathy, care will be detached and cold. But when empathy and personal knowledge are brought together, miracles can happen”
    (Kitwood 1997)

    Author: Keith Bettany; Bach App Sc (Developmental Disabilities); RN;

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