Home is where the health is

Home is where the health is … ageing well in place.

The following is a shortened edited version of a talk given to the Edinburgh University Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) Spring Symposium on Monday 15th April.

Whether tenement flat, bungalow, farmhouse, or croft virtually every piece of research I have read or conversation I have held with folks over the years has articulated a desire to age in place, remain in place and to die in place – if all else is equal.

Space and place are intrinsic to not only our psychological sense of wellbeing but also to our physical health, not least in a community such as Scotland where health inequalities are so influenced by geography and economy. In the lottery of location, location, location where you live matters for how healthy you are or are not.

Over the years I have written and spoken a lot about what it means to belong to somewhere, and the influence that such a sense of place can have upon your health and wellbeing, or even more critically what happens to you when due to no fault of your own you are unable to ‘remain’ in your locale or when ‘you lose your independence.’

There is a rich history of research on the desire of people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. There is an accepted presumption of the truth of that sentiment, albeit that we also have growing evidence to show the clear health benefits of congregated or shared living when an individual may reach a particular age in life or stage of frailty.

The presumption of home first is part of the DNA of our social care policy and delivery. It is articulated in the Scottish Government’s post pandemic Statement of Intent on the ‘Health and Social Care of Older People.’ in the following terms:

‘Our vision for Scotland

We want people to enjoy a high quality of life as they grow older. Our ambition is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow old. We want to achieve this through safe, integrated, person centred health and social care. Everyone should be able to live independently, and drive the decisions about their health and wellbeing; with their human rights respected and their dignity protected…’

All this underlined further when it states:

 ‘Home first approach

 People have told us that they would like their care and treatment to be delivered in their home or local community as much as possible. Our health and social care services must reorganise themselves to better support people to live well and independently in their communities as they age.’

Health and social care for older people: statement of intent – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)  (March 2021)

Laudable, clear, and factual in statement and intent. Hard to disagree with it.

And we can all recognise similar aspirations, notably the desire for independent living – throughout the years of policy of Scottish national government, whether in the seminal work of the key learning disability report ‘The Same As You?’ of 2000 which hastened further the closure of our long stay institutions, or the more recent passion behind the Feeley Report, the Independent Review of Adult Social Care (2021) – people time and time again have stated the desire to live as independently for as long as possible.

The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment for older adults to age in is the community, where they can remain active, engaged, socially connected, and independent.

The question is – have we as a society paid more than lip service to that aspiration? Have we fostered and nurtured the civic and care capacity to respond in full to that desire or have and are the visions of ageing in place becoming rooted in the soil of delusion? How prepared is Scotland to enable people to age healthily in place?

I want to explore this issue of healthy ageing in place – through three perspectives, namely legislative, finance and the built environment.

1.

The first is legislative. It is sometimes lost amidst all the talk of reform and reshaping, of new creation and novel development such as the National Care Service, that Scotland already has some of the most progressive health and more specifically social care legislation in the world.

The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 (SDS Act) sought to bestow upon the individual who required support and care new rights guided by the principles of participation and dignity, involvement and inclusion, informed choice and collaboration. It aimed to change practice from assessing what someone needed to maintain and survive life to determining what outcomes would enable that individual to flourish and thrive. Budgets were to be in the hands of the supported person; new models of innovative, community-based supports would be developed as flexibility, creativity and diversity were written into Guidance and advice. It was all designed to allow folks to live the ordinary lives they wanted and to participate as full citizens of their local communities. In essence it was about enabling ageing in place (before the term became commonplace.) This was primary and preventative health care dovetailing into community-based social care.

Derek Feeley 8 years later in his Review told us what those of us on the ground knew already namely that the implementation of the SDS dream had failed.

It was clear from his Review that from the experience of many of the stakeholders who had engaged in its processes that the implementation of Self-directed Support (SDS) was symptomatic of the failure to embed progressive social policy within the existent political and governmental systems. SDS failed and is still failing in part because of the impacts of austerity and economic downturn and later the pandemic but in truth the faultiness are a lot more local. Social care as delivered today and Self-directed Support as initially conceived has been and is hampered and limited by the current model of local government in Scotland and by the desire to entrench power and control within the hands of those who finance and contract rather than bestow control and choice to citizens.

SDS provides the foundation stone for a re-shaping of social care that enables the person to be in control, to utilise autonomy and exercise choice not only of the decisions made around their life but of the outcomes they want to achieve.

The legislation already exists to enable place-based healthy ageing – the commitment around implementation is what is lacking. We are paying lip service to individual choice and personal control.

2.

The second influencer upon any assessment of ageing in place must be the fiscal reality of the current moment. Folks like me who have been around this social care world for more years than we would wish to confess recognise that we have never before seen the drastic levels of savage cuts to social care provision we are facing now. What is happening in our local communities across Scotland today rides a coach and horses through legislative intent and political aspiration.

In the days and weeks that have recently passed I have come across numerous instances where individuals are having their packages of support and care reviewed, reassessed and stopped. Indeed, I know of several authorities which have established review teams ostensibly to make sure people are getting the right support but in reality to cut the majority of packages and find savings. Now in a context of fiscal waste I can understand such a measure – but we are already talking about a population who only receive services at the level of critical and emergency need. How many people do you know who as they age require less support? A few yes but the majority – no way.

Despite the self-assurance rhetoric of commissioners and local officers in health and care partnerships what we are witnessing is frankly a grotesque cost saving exercise which is putting people’s lives at risk or at best is serving to limit and diminish those lives.

Indeed, the CEO of Age Scotland Katherine Crawford warned about the precarious state of social care in Scotland, stating that:

“The longer people wait for care, the more acute their needs can become. Distressing figures from last year showed that hundreds of people died while waiting for care packages to start. For others, it is unsafe for them to be at home without the care they need, resulting in poorer health, increased hospital admissions and yet more pressure on the NHS as people are trapped in hospital.”

“The crisis in social care in Scotland is fast becoming a national scandal.

More than 10,000 people waiting for social care at home (agescotland.org.uk)

She is of course right because the latest figures from Public Health Scotland found that 6,811 people are waiting to be assessed for social care at home, with a further 3,393 waiting for a care package to be delivered. The vast majority of these are older Scots.

Because those who age in place are largely invisible, because they don’t form queues in ambulances outside hospitals or in A and E corridors – they have become the easy collateral of the phoney war which is going on in our communities. A war which proclaims a political rhetoric of more investment and funding in health and care whilst the truth on the ground is of stripped back services, packages of support being removed (often with only 72 hours’ notice) and people being quite frankly abandoned to age unhealthily. The vast majority of additional resource is helping to pay workers a better wage which is fundamental, but it is not adding to the level of support in any significant way.

We’ve turned away from an aspiration to enable people to be supported by preventative care to enable them to age in place and potentially thrive and flourish into a system which is about maintaining people. There is no dignity in a life which simply breathes in and out but whose choice, wishes, feelings, desires, and dreams are negated.

3.

There are of course other dimensions which also need to be addressed if we are to achieve a healthy ageing in place.

Central amongst these is our built environment, not least our housing stock.

In 2018 I was writing and speaking about how important it was that we started to re-design our city centres to enable them to become once again places where people of all ages were able to call home and to do so in a manner that was truly inclusive. To some extent this has and is happening, but I fear that it is a process of re-design which excludes the potential of ageing in place. But do we have an urban environment which validates and values ageing in place?

I was intrigued by the research of three Scottish based academics Brunelli, Smith and Woolrych in a paper ‘High streets, ageing and well-being’ published in the Journal of Urban Design at the start of this year. In it they explore three Edinburgh ‘village’ high streets.

Full article: High streets, ageing and well-being (tandfonline.com)

They start from the premise that ‘despite their perceived decline, local high streets in the UK remain valuable central and well-connected places that can foster ageing in place, yet their potential to sustain well-being in old age has been overlooked.’

Analysing their qualitative and quantitative data they explore older people’s well-being in four key dimensions: social well-being, sense of place, enjoyment and feeling active and sense of purpose and mastery of the environment.

Their findings include an assertion that to make these locales more age-friendly and to support older people’s well-being:

‘it is desirable to: make the public realm more inclusive, pedestrian-friendly, and integrated with public transport infrastructure; actively support the clustering of amenities, shops, services, and bus stops, anchored to a day centre/local hub; encourage attractive shopfronts to support a welcoming and safe atmosphere including the externalization of activities, for example, adding opportunities to sit outside; and increase the provision of affordable housing near and/or on the actual high streets.’

It can be achieved with collective coherent inclusive involvement of all voices in town planning, in architectural design and in urban investment. I really do believe our cities and towns can become age friendly and dementia confident. To do so we in part need to challenge the bias in the construction industry which effectively buys out ‘social housing’ targets – when did you last see a bungalow built? We need to address the issues of pavement furniture and shared pavements; of traffic lights that are far too fast, a lack of seats and public toilets, poor visual signage and so much more.

We also need to challenge the ghettoization of ageing which creates villages for those with dementia equivalent to the asylums of the Victorian era – age out of sight out of mind even in a luxury environment. Ageing in place also requires a collective reframing of workforce skills and abilities to make all retail, commercial and community staff, both in the public and private sectors confident around age and all it brings including dementia rather than simply aware.

But as the Centre for Ageing Better made clear in a report last year:

‘ simply changing the built form is not sufficient to create a more inclusive environment for ageing since places are more than physical spaces. Viable environments are articulated through a strong sense of place, defined as the social, psychological and emotional bonds that people have with their environment. A strong sense of place results from having access to supports for active participation, opportunities to build and sustain social networks, and assuming a meaningful role in the community. In contrast a feeling of displacement or ‘placelessness’ is associated with alienation, isolation and loneliness, often resulting in adverse health and well-being outcomes, particularly amongst vulnerable older adults.’

To conclude if home is really to be where the health is, where people can age in a manner that allows them to grow and change, thrive, and flourish, then it requires the collective will of designers and architects, planner and politicians, economists, and employers to create the spaces and places that allows for that. It demands a vision of ageing where those who age are in control, not just at the centre of someone else’s concern. Technological innovation can take us part way down that road but without the societal willingness and political investment it will be a wasted journey.

Donald Macaskill

Photo by Katie Barrett on Unsplash

The devaluing of care: the stress of caring.

The month of April is Stress Awareness Month which has been held every April since 1992 and which is designed to increase public awareness about both the causes of and cures for what in many parts of the world is a stress epidemic.

Stress has been a topic and theme that has always interested me both in a personal and professional way. My interest probably started when as a teenager I was aware of two adults in my life who were deeply affected by stress. One was an individual who worked constantly and relentlessly – people around him tried to get him to slow down, to take a break, to look after himself by eating better and not drinking so much. All of it was to no avail as he powered on to the get the next task done with an invisible deadline focussing his mind and work pressure dominating his priority. He used to dismiss concern by saying he was a ‘workaholic’ and he needed therapy not criticism.

He quite literally worked himself to death because one day he dropped dead in his late fifties of a massive heart attack. At his funeral people talked about how his stress and workaholism had killed him with someone in my earshot opining that “There are too many in this graveyard who are there because of stress.”

The other person I’m thinking about was someone who was continually anxious and who was always concerned that what they did or how they performed was never good enough. They had held down a good job but over time they got more and more anxious and their life and relationships began to be deeply affected by the pressures they felt they were under at work. Despite very real and honest attempts by managers and employer they continually felt that they were falling short and what started as occasional days off work morphed into days and weeks. After a while they were in the language of the time ‘signed off with stress.’

Two very different instances but with one common link – stress. After this I went on to study the nature of stress and in particular occupational burnout and its relationship to self-identity. After conducting just short of a hundred interviews I realised just how complex the whole nature of stress was but just how devastating it could be not just for occupational role but for your very health and wellbeing and the relationships you were or were not able to have. Stress really was and is a killer and can change lives dramatically.

According to research in 2022/23:

  • There were 875,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 49% of all work-related ill-health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to work-related ill-health.
  • The main work factors cited as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety include the demands of the job, lack of control, lack of information and support, work relationships, and roles and responsibilities.

There is a huge amount that organisations and employers can do which not only fulfils a legal duty, but I would argue a moral one, to ensure the health and wellbeing of their employees. Doing so as the HSE argues is good for business as it increases productivity, reduces sickness absence and nurtures staff.

In the last few years, we have seen across the board an increased awareness in targeted resources and support to improve mental wellbeing for the workforce not least after the pandemic.

Having said all that – and we certainly need to continue to resource and develop practical work-based mental health supports – I think there is much more to reducing stress than responding with support after stress has occurred – there are clear preventative approaches.

One of the few insights I have gained over the years in researching and reading about stress is that there is an inextricable relationship between the stress one experiences in work or life in general and the extent to which your role or job of work is valued or you feel valued personally in life or relationships.

When I interviewed people nearly three decades ago about what made them stressed – yes the volume of work, lack of structure of support, financial and other pressures all were commonplace – but what was highlighted more than anything was the extent to which they felt they were not valued in their role.

Jump forward to conversations I’ve been having in the last 4 weeks, and it has felt to me as if I’ve turned back the clock. Time and time again home carers, nurses in care homes and managers in care services have told me that what affects them and their colleagues more, what adds to the stress is that they feel the job they do is not valued, understood, respected, or considered of worth by others around them. Put simply they are saying to me that a significant part of the stress they are enduring is because of a perceived lack of worth and value impacting on both occupational and personal self-esteem.

The pandemic brought about the moment of the clapping syndrome – where every Thursday (eventually for social care) people would gather in the street or on their front steps and visibly thank key workers by clapping. But no sooner had the claps echoed into silence, frontline care staff fell into the old routine and habit of being told they were ‘just a carer’; of others being more rewarded by pay increases, of struggling to get people to consider that social care was just as important as the NHS. People like me go on about this imbalance a lot – for instance how we have a ministerial role which talks about NHS Recovery but not one for the equally if not more pandemic traumatised social care world and workforce. At the frontline, workers are stressed to an extent and degree that I and others haven’t witnessed – it is a set of system harms resulting in real illness, fatigue and burnout.

But for many it isn’t just about salary and reward, about systems and models, it is about how society does or more honestly does not value the job and role, the professionalism and expertise entailed in the role of frontline care work.

Collectively we will only address the burnout and stress, the breakdown and despair at the heart of both paid and indeed even more so unpaid care, if as a whole community and society we start to value care and support as the heart of our being community with one another.

I know that many carers love and find huge personal satisfaction from their job and what it brings and means to the people they support – the truth of that is seen in the long service and dedicated professionalism of thousands of women and men who would be capable of earning so much more in other sectors. But we also, I would suggest, have to recognise those we lose to care, those who leave and give up, those who are stressed and burnt out because they simply don’t feel valued or wanted by wider society. As one put it to me recently. ‘“What I do is who I am. I can’t imagine not being a carer. But there are so many who think my job is of no consequence and who brush me aside. When that happens, I feel so empty and just want to scream.”

If we are to address workforce and personal stress in the care sector, we must surely start by valuing the very essence of the role of care and support? Sadly, we have a long way to go on that journey but it has to start sometime.

Donald Macaskill

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

 

Scotland can’t wait… social care needs to act about Parkinson’s

On April 11th there will be a global coming together for what for a number of years now has been recognised as World Parkinson’s Day. It sits within Parkinson’s Awareness Month which is designed to increase knowledge about and awareness of the condition. Like many people Parkinson’s has touched my life professionally and personally. It is a condition which affects around about 13,000 people in Scotland and every week it is estimated that around 30 new people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Anyone working in social care services and supports will be aware of the extent to which this condition affects the daily lives of so many across the country, and also how poor our response to the condition has been and still is. Those of us working in social care recognise the truth that Parkinson’s is the fastest growing global neurological condition.

This was exceptionally well argued in the latest report from Parkinson’s UK in Scotland, which was published in January 2024. The report is entitled ‘Scotland can’t wait’ and is a cogently argued, data packed document listing the many gaps in support for people living with Parkinson’s and affirming the truth that these people and those who support them cannot continue to wait for the issues of failure to be addressed.

It is, sadly, a very familiar story to so many people who live with neurological conditions in Scotland today. Whether it is dementia, or MND or Parkinson’s there is a systemic failure to respond to conditions which can be significantly supported and alleviated were the right support to be in place. We may as a system and nation be good at publishing plans and strategies but our implementation and driving of real change that makes a difference on the ground falls woefully short. This truly is a failure to care.

The ‘Scotland can’t wait’ report has a whole host of recommendations for NHS Boards, on investment in medication, on workforce development and increased capacity and much more. It is worthy of both reading and wider dissemination. A section which particularly interests me is one which emphasises the need to do more around mental health and in relation to those who live with Parkinson’s who develop dementia.

Parkinson’s manifests itself in diverse ways and no two people demonstrate and evidence  the exact same responses to the disease. It is estimated that there are over 40 distinct characteristics that make up the Parkinson’s condition. The NHS website describes it in the following terms:

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.

‘The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor); slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles.

A person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms. These include depression and anxiety, balance problems (this may increase the chances of a fall), loss of sense of smell (anosmia), problems sleeping (insomnia) and memory problems.’

In Scotland it is estimated that 30% of those living with Parkinson’s have dementia and an estimated 50% need support with daily activities. The conversations I have with both care home and care at home providers and front-line staff illustrates that supporting people with Parkinson’s is increasingly also about supporting people who are living with Parkinson’s and dementia.

The recommendations of the Scotland report highlight the gaps and they range from a lack of awareness amongst NHS generic mental health professionals about the nature of Parkinson’s; the need to increase the neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry workforce to meet the needs of people with neurological conditions to the need to develop better support for future care planning (including Powers of Attorney) before someone develops dementia.

Over the years I have noted a growing relationship between some Parkinson’s services and the social care and dementia service sector, but this occurs more often than not through local relationships and professionals committed to working collaboratively around the needs of a person. The Parkinson’s UK Scotland report quite rightly argues that such collaboration and co-ordination needs to be much more systematic, planned and adequately resourced. At the moment I very much fear that people living with Parkinson’s who develop dementia are being doubly excluded and not achieving the level of support and care for their dementia that they rightly deserve. The idea of joint clinics and the inclusion of Parkinson’s specific education within general social care dementia training are two good examples of how progress could be made.

In speaking to a family member recently she remarked to me how she thought she was well prepared and aware of what the Parkinson’s journey was going to mean for her partner but that she had been blind-sided by the changes in him which she now (with hindsight) recognised as his developing dementia. These included him starting to have bad and frightening dreams, his inability to make a decision and keep to an agreed plan or action; that he was finding basic activities like getting dressed or using the TV remote control really difficult. She had not known of the significantly increased risk of developing dementia if you have Parkinson’s and neither, she told me, had most of her friends in support groups been aware of this factor.

A real legacy of this year’s World Parkinson’s Day would be for there to be positive action at all levels, not least national government, to address the recommendations of the Scotland can’t wait  report and for those of us who work in and deliver social care supports, not least dementia, to better understand the consequences of a condition which is still so misunderstood and sadly all to frequently ignored.

Over the last couple of years, the Parkinson’s community shared hundreds of poems with Parkinson’s UK for World Parkinson’s Day 2022 and 2023. They were happy, funny, sad and thoughtful and told the world how Parkinson’s has affected individuals. Here is one which demonstrates the positivity of so many I have known who have lived with Parkinson’s. But that positivity demands Scottish society and care and health leadership to play its part because Scotland truly can’t wait.

Shiona from Dumfries and Galloway  wrote:

I can still breathe

I can still bend

I can still laugh

I can still love

I can still fly

Donald Macaskill

International Recruitment in Social Care Survey Findings

Survey Reveals Urgent Concerns Over International Recruitment in Social Care 

Scottish Care, the representative body for independent social care providers in Scotland, has conducted a survey revealing significant challenges faced by care providers in recruiting and retaining internationally recruited staff. The findings shed light on the potential risks to social care service delivery across Scotland due to recent decisions by the Home Office regarding international recruitment pathways.

The survey was initiated in response to Scottish Care member reports regarding increasing difficulties in international recruitment. The Home Office’s decision to request additional documentation and communication issues exacerbated concerns among care providers, particularly around Certificates of Sponsorship.

Data gathered from the survey revealed several key insights:

  • Over 66% of Scottish Care members are currently recruiting staff from overseas, indicating a heavy reliance on international recruitment pathways.
  • However, 68% of respondents expressed reluctance to consider international recruitment in the future, due to concerns over sustainability and financially viability.
  • Respondents from 14 Local Authority areas indicate that care providers employ over 15% of staff from overseas, with 7 areas reporting over 25%.
  • Alarmingly, some care providers reported between 95 – 100% of staff being internationally recruited, posing significant risks to service sustainability.

These findings highlight a serious concern over the sustainability of social care delivery in Scotland. The potential loss of internationally recruited staff could intensify the existing vacancy challenges and impact overall service provision.

Scottish Care urges policymakers to address the urgent issues facing social care recruitment. Immediate action is needed to protect social care service provision and support the sector’s workforce.


Scottish Care has prepared a Briefing Paper for the International Recruitment Survey Findings, which is available here.

Global Workforce Report Launched

The National Care Forum (NCF) in collaboration with the Global Ageing NetworkScottish Care and UKRI has published a report resulting from the Social Care International Workforce Summit held as part of the Global Ageing Conference last year.  

The report’s publication also marks NCF CEO Professor Vic Rayner as the new board chair of the Global Ageing Network, a role she will hold for two years. 

Professor Vic Rayner said: “Co-hosting the Global Ageing Conference with colleagues from the Global Ageing Network and Scottish Care was a huge honour and one which I am thrilled to continue as I take over the leadership of the Global Ageing Network board. I relish the opportunity to nurture the international connections that have been made and set a course, together with members and partners, to tackle the issues affecting the care of older people around the world and ensure their rights are represented.  

“The work we will be doing together reflects the enormous change taking place throughout the world that has a bearing on the daily delivery of care and support to older people, particularly the impacts of mass migration on the global care workforce. Our discussions at the conference included insights from 14 different countries and collectively reached a series of conclusions and recommendations. It is now time for us to communicate these outcomes via this report and demand action and funding from our governments and policymakers to help ensure each territory is empowered to develop a robust care workforce, attract new talent while rewarding the dedication of current care workers, and continue to transform the lives of older people with excellent, professional care.”  

CEO of the Global Ageing Network, Katie Smith-Sloan commented: “Without an adequate, trained and well supported workforce, there is no care. Throughout the world, we are facing enormous challenges in attracting, retaining, training, compensating, and elevating the profession of care workers. A global challenge needs global solutions. To this end, the Global Ageing Network and our members, as a global community dedicated to the well-being of older adults, are committed to raising awareness and driving the public and private sector towards urgently addressing the workforce crisis. There is a way forward if we work together.” 

The report is available to download here. 

Living in the face of death: not just a long goodbye.

This past week I have had a couple of conversations which though significantly unconnected have in my mind touched and influenced one another. One had to do with reaction to a television advert from the Alzheimer Society, the second a conversation with a Filippino care worker who is preparing to celebrate Black Saturday today.

The Long Goodbye is a very emotional television advert with a voice over by the actor Colin Firth which shows a son delivering a eulogy at his mother’s funeral and recalling the many moments in his mother’s dementia experience where a part of her ‘died’ ‘again and again’.

The advert created by the Alzheimer Society has resulted in a wide debate on social media and amongst dementia organisations about its merit and what it says about the lives of those who live with dementia. Many have stated that it diminishes the lives of those with dementia by presenting it as a series of deaths and losses.

The CEO of the Alzheimer Society, Kate Lee in response to the ‘backlash’ commented:

“This campaign seeks to tell the unvarnished truth about the devastation caused by dementia and it is very much informed by people affected by the condition.

The loved ones of people with dementia often describe it as a ‘living grief’ as, bit by bit, the disease’s relentless progression causes part of the person to die…again and again and again.

“But there is hope. Alzheimer’s Society, through its support services, is there for people affected again and again as they face the grim reality of the long goodbye.”

The Alzheimer Society has gone on to argue that the advert was created and made with people who have dementia and their families, that it is seeking to raise awareness of the fact that 900,000 people have dementia and that nearly 80% of respondents to a recent survey weren’t aware that one in three people born in the UK today will get dementia. It argues that ‘Many may find the advert upsetting. But the reality is that dementia is devastating.’ They argue that this campaign is not about fundraising but raising the awareness of wider society that current approaches to dementia cannot go on as they are as we move to a situation where by 2040 1.4 million people will be living with the condition.

This past week I have had several conversations with both individuals who are living with dementia but also their family members and allies and everyone has mentioned the TV campaign. It has led many to feel despair and hurt and indeed shock about the way in which it portrays living with dementia.

Having watched the clip myself part of me can absolutely see what the creators were trying to do and achieve, but a huge part of me cannot but feel this is a massive and damaging misstep by a charity which should be focussed on the affirmation of life regardless of diagnosis.

I know just how upset and hurt people have been and how staff in care homes and in the community have had to speak about these issues with residents and clients.

At the centre of the debate about the advert is the issue of anticipatory grief something I have spoken and written about a great deal. What does it mean and how does it feel to live your life in the knowledge that the disease within you will kill you? How do you as an individual and those who are around you in a company of love and compassion deal with the changes which are happening because of the disease? How do you better support yourself for the act of dying and the work of grieving?

For me there are no easy answers to any of those questions and the way in which I have worked through the loss of a loved one has been and will be different to anyone else. But what has been important for me is that every moment mattered, every conversation counted, and that the preciousness of time became an invaluable gift. Far from my losing a loved becoming a series of long goodbyes I tried (and admittedly didn’t always achieve) to have a sense of every encounter being a new beginning or a hello, an introduction to a new part of the person; a realisation that even in barrenness and hurt there was growth and newness, possibility and promise even in pain and emptiness. That the person I loved was still the person before me, just different, still wanting and reaching out for love and touch, for a renewed sense of being held by my humanity.

I mentioned another conversation I had this week.

This was one I held with a nurse who was working in a care home and who comes from the Philippines. We were chatting about the upcoming holiday weekend, and I asked her what she was planning. She told me that she would be celebrating Easter Sunday but that first she would be recognising Black Saturday which was so important to her, her culture and to many other people from the Philippines.

I discovered from her that Black Saturday was a day of fasting for Catholics in the Philippines and that it commemorated the day that the crucified Jesus lay in his tomb after he had died on Good Friday. It was the day in between deep sadness and celebratory joy. I was told that Black Saturday is a significant day for people in the Philippines. It is recognised in diverse ways including the famous healing rituals in Siquijor where traditional medicines using herbs and roots are created. It is a day of quietness, limited noise, peace and solemnity.

But importantly my partner in conversation said that it is a day when you are meant to spend time thinking about how you are living your life in the face of your own death; how you are healing the relationships which might be fractured or broken; how you are using your voice to speak peace and healing; how you are using your hands to bring solace and purpose. It is an active day of contemplative preparation. It is a central requirement between loss and hope to be open to listening, active in preparation, and instinctive in being with others.

It struck me as she spoke to me and as I reflected later on the real upset caused by the Alzheimer advert that Black Saturday was all about anticipatory grief.

So I will spend some part of this Saturday thinking about how I can better support those who wait upon death. I will do so not thinking that every moment has to be strained of joy and purpose but in honesty being prepared to accept that the tears of living are made with joy and sadness. I will remember those moments when my heart panged with a sense of loss caused by the changes of a look that did not remember me or a memory lost into time, and I will reflect on my truth that despite all the absence that there was an astonishing presence of love and touch, of togetherness and being.

And yes, I will in the days and weeks ahead try to convince others of the importance of being more aware, more committed, more energetic in righting the wrongs of a society that displaces dementia and those who live with the disease, that treats them with financial and care discrimination, one that is so unequal.

I do not and cannot believe that a life facing a dementia death is calculated by a series of losses, but rather I have to and will continue to believe in the immeasurable arithmetic of presence and positivity.

I am reading a lot of Rupi Kaur these days, and this poem ‘funeral’ spoke to me this week, a week of anticipatory grieving for so many.

when i go from this place
dress the porch with garlands
as you would for a wedding my dear
pull the people from their homes
and dance in the streets
when death arrives
like a bride at the aisle
send me off in my brightest clothing
serve ice cream with rose petals to our guests
there’s no reason to cry my dear
i have waited my whole life
for such a beauty to take
my breath away
when i go let it be a celebration
for i have been here
i have lived
i have won at this game called life

[POEM] Funeral by Rupi Kaur : r/Poetry (reddit.com)

Donald Macaskill

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash

Enhancing the lives of older people in our care homes

The following is based on part of an address given last Tuesday at an online conference organised by Faith in Older People and Anna Chaplaincy.

To begin with I have to acknowledge that any talk of care homes has to address the problem of image and stigma. Even before the pandemic but certainly since the very understanding of care homes is one that is too often associated with the negative.

But I want to start from the perspective of challenging the stereotypes that care homes are places where people (to use the language that is often used), are places that people are  ‘put in’, or ‘end up in’ … or even worse the idea that they are ‘prisons for older age,’ ‘locations of last resort’.

Yes, it is true that for the vast majority of people moving into congregated or shared living in older age is a decision which is not ideal, and it might be one taken as a result of a decline or deterioration; we acknowledge that most of us would want to remain independent or in our own home for as long as possible.

Yet whilst many more people are living longer, they are also living with multiple conditions or co-morbidities. Another truth is that people are entering residential care much later in their illness or ageing journey. We are therefore talking about a more frail and fragile population, the majority of whom are living with some degree of cognitive decline such as dementia and the majority of whom are on a palliative and end of life care pathway in one way or another.

For many residents their care home is likely to be the place where they end their days. Most care home residents today will be in the home for between 14 and 18 months rather than the 3-5 years which were commonplace a decade ago. In many senses therefore care homes have become ‘hospices in the heart of our communities.’

That awareness has changed the dynamic of many care homes yet paradoxically that has not made care homes places of quietude and sadness but quite the opposite – for many they have become even more places of enjoyment and life affirmation, of living life to the fullest possible extent.

In my experience many care homes are places where individuals flourish, where they thrive, where they come alive, where they discover an energy which they felt they had lost in the years of past memory; where some find a new direction and sense of purpose that they might have yearned for in the past.

It is no exaggeration – at least for me – to state that care homes can be places that change lives and bring a new dimension to the remaining days of life.

In other words, care homes are not places where the task is to exist but rather, and with compassionate support and skilled professionalism, they can become places where people grow until the end of their lives, changing and moulding their days to the new rhythm of their experience.

They are places where individuals are enabled to ‘tell their story’.

Care homes can in the words of this talk be places to enhance life rather than to simply survive – and the role of spiritual care in that enhancement is critical and central.

Enhance is a lovely and intriguing word. It first came into English usage in the 13th century and literally meant ‘to raise something higher.’

When it was first used enhance meant to mak something physically higher, but quickly it became a word used to describe making someone feel recognised, more valued, or attractive.

I love the image that the word suggests. How are we in our relationships and actions, in the dynamics of our happening times and in our silence, in the exchanges of our conversations and encounters – enhancing or raising higher those who we are privileged to spend time with?

Care homes should be about enhancing older age, about raising up, making attractive, bestowing value on age and individual and all that comes with it. They should be about scattering to the four winds the stigma and stereotype of being old, of becoming frail, of losing memory, of developing dementia, and even of dying. Because all of these experiences can each and every one be enhanced – be raised up, to the point at which someone feels heard and valued, affirmed and wanted, celebrated and seen.

Care homes are about creating spaces and places where people can discover who they are even in the last hours and moments of living and loving; they are about raising up older age as something worthy of being affirmed, as valuable in its own right, regardless of activity or ability, capacity or consent.

That is no more the case than when I reflect about dementia. A diagnosis of dementia deserves not to be a full stop in the story of your life, but rather with support and resourced focus it can become the start of a new chapter whose ending is still to be written, whose richness of experience has still to be encountered.

Too often we have both in care home and community limited people by diagnosis and labelled them by siloed response and action. Person led care and support is recognising the particularity and uniqueness of each individual – it is about changing the dynamic of the cared for and carer so the power, autonomy, control and choice rests with the person being supported (perhaps especially if the individual lacks capacity to ‘know’) – it is about not treating the condition but caring for the person.

The role of spirituality and spiritual care in the whole process of enhancing older age in care homes is simply inescapable and undeniable. In a real sense enhancing – raising up older age in care homes – is about recognising that the very dynamic of care and support is at its essence an act of spiritual care. And for me it focuses on several characteristics:

Firstly, that spiritual care which enhances older age should seek to discover and use a language that can be the means of real communication for the person being supported.

Many years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with Phoebe Caldwell who for many is the mother of modern speech and language therapy, not least because of her development of intensive interaction approaches. I have seen with my own eyes how Phoebe worked with individuals who had been ‘locked in’, who had never or had stopped using words as their means of communication. Phoebe used to say that every human being has a unique language and communicates in a unique way. I am on one side of the river- you are on the other – the art of communication is the building of the bridge of understanding from one shore to the other. It is arrogance and hubris of the highest order to assume (as we so often do) that in order to communicate you must come over to my world, use my language, my words. It is much better for us to garner the humility of encountering one another in the middle of that bridge where I learn what your sounds, or eyes, or motion, or jerks say to me and vice versa. Real communication happens when there is a mutuality of encounter. For me that has always been an essential part of spiritual care – I am about learning your language, being humble enough not to assume I have all the insights or answers, all the knowledge and sense.

Dr Maggie Ellis from St Andrews University has done so much to use Phoebe’s approaches in communicating with individuals who have lost the power of speech in the latter stages of dementia. I would commend her work to you not least because now and in the years to come there will be so many more who because of their dementia will lose the power of speech and communication – we can either dismiss them as used to be the case in the way we labelled people with disabilities and autism as ‘non communicative’ or we can enter a new world of self and mutual discovery and learn a new language of spirit, compassion and care. Learning a new language and new ways to communicate is key to effective spiritual care.

My second characteristic of care that enhances older age is a spiritual care that seeks to address the whole of a person rather than the elements that can be simply determined, recorded, and recognised.

In the words of the Scottish Government’s Spiritual Care Framework

‘We all have a part of us that seeks to discover meaning, purpose and hope in those aspects of our experience that matter most to us. This is often referred to as “spirituality”; informing our personal values and beliefs, and affirming that tears, laughter, pain, and joy are all part of the human experience.

 I believe that part of enhancing older age – of raising it up – is to acknowledge that questions of meaning, purpose and hope are as real and valid in older age – and whilst living with conditions such as dementia – as at any other age. These are spiritual questions which we need to give space to – and ignoring them, not encouraging them, or worst still avoiding them is a limiting of the person.

That might take us into uncomfortable territory because I fear that our risk averse attitudes to age and frailty have led us sometimes to treat older people as children, to avoid the totality of being human, to try not to be unsafe or take risks, or fail and not succeed; to somehow think all older people are like one another; to presume that older age has no capacity for the novel or new, has no appreciation of the desire to do learn or discover possibility. Caring for the totality of a person requires spiritual care but is in itself an act of spiritual care. I just wonder if we sometimes limit the shocking potential of spiritual care by being predictable and safe?

Lastly, for me a critical component of enhancing, of raising up older age in care homes is the spiritual art of being honest and real and raw in accepting the uncertainties of the unknown and in giving sanctuary to the deepest fears of individuals.

Care homes are much better at walking with people on the journey to dying than perhaps they used to be. Living in and through dying is a critical component of ageing.

Care homes are in an often-unique position in enabling the giftedness of encounter and relationship formation to build a sense of belonging that can heal the deepest wounds even beyond the tears of grief.

There is perhaps no greater act of care for the person than to allow them to die well, with choice and autonomy and control as much as is possible.

Enhancing the last moments of life, raising up the latter days of an individual, creating space for there to be acts to raise the value and worth of a life lived to the full are all surely the core of spiritual care.

So spiritual care is essential to enhancing – to raising up the lives of all who are older, but not least in our care homes. At its best it is an art that allows the person to become who they have the potential to be, to flourish and to thrive into wholeness.

The Canadian poet Rupi Kaur writes:

“it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”

Donald Macaskill

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Restoring the essence: the role of social work in changing times.

Tuesday coming, the 19th of March is World Social Work Day.

I have spent a lot of my life surrounded by social workers both in terms of being colleagues of them, working alongside them, and even sharing office space with them. But I have also been very aware of the role of social work through relatives and family connections who were and are social workers. It is a profession, therefore, with which I am very familiar and for which I have over the years developed a deep respect, no less so than when I trained hundreds of social workers in Self-directed Support legislation, around issues such as grief and loss, and adult protection.

I am saying all this because I want to evidence a regard for a role and a profession which I feel to be increasingly marginalised and ignored and one which I fear may be losing sight of its essence and energy. I was sharing some of these reflections the other day with a social worker friend who had just retired after decades of service and whose reflections and insights challenged me a great deal.

The international description of World Social Work Day states that it is :

” a celebration that aims to highlight the achievements of social work, to raise the visibility of social services for the future of societies, and to defend social justice and human rights.”

It goes further and points out for this year’s theme:

“World Social Work Day …is rooted in the Global Agenda and emphasises the need for social workers to adopt innovative, community-led approaches that are grounded in indigenous wisdom and harmonious coexistence with nature.”

Social work happens the world over and whilst there may be cultural and geographic distinctions, the essence or core of the profession is largely similar regardless of location. For me a social worker has always been the person who works alongside an individual, community, or group to help them find solutions to their problems and challenges. They are about enabling people to find the resource and energy, the route and strength to empower them to thrive, and achieve their full potential. Regardless of the age of the supported person, social work is grounded in an advocacy for the person at risk of rejection and discrimination. It is a profession steeped in ethical and moral principles with a concern for those marginalised, ignored and at risk. It is a role which literally defends, intervenes to ensure safety, and directs toward independence, self-control and personal autonomy. Knowledge of law, awareness of policy, ability to manage systems are all social work skills directed to enabling the supported person to take control, be autonomous and live as independently as they can. This is all about the maximising of human potential.

The Global Definition of Social Work from the International Federation of Social Workers expresses it well:

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.”

My social work friend and I reflected on the passionate originality and strength of the Social Work Scotland Act when it appeared in 1968 – which whilst I was a babe in arms – in the years after I began to appreciate was a dramatic game-changer in the world of social work in this country. It posited a very different approach to social work which attempted to change the traditional power dynamics of the era. It grounded in law the commitment to provide a community based social work service which ijn the words of a recent report was:

‘focused on providing early help, working in partnership with the communities served, and prepared and empowered to act to protect the vulnerable and those in crisis.’

My friend and I reflected on the extent to which the social work profession in Scotland was reflective of the original intent. Now straight off the bat I am not one of those sideline commentators who consider that social work has sold the pass and has lost its integrity, but it is difficult to ignore the reality that policy, political and legislative changes have altered the nature of social work over the years. Chief amongst them was the Community Care Act and the introduction of the concept of care management which to my friend, “turned us into bean counters, door blockers and system protectors.”

This change has been described in the following terms:

‘This shifted the onus from social workers as therapeutic resources towards practitioners as navigators of an increasingly complex landscape in which their professional values, methods and identity were eroded. Inevitably, social workers looked for areas within an ever more bureaucratic workplace to retain identity and purpose by trying to steer courses between policy intention, management systems and professional judgement.’ (see 3. Historical context – National Care Service – social work: contextual paper – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) )

So it was perhaps not surprising when the Self-directed Support Act (SDS) was introduced in 2013 with its emphasis on enabling the supported person to identify what would enable them to live to the fullest rather than what they needed, its principles of independent living, its emphasis on control, choice, autonomy and dignity – that virtually all the social workers I met and trained in the Act spoke about it in terms of a return to core values and about being what they had entered the profession to do in the first place, i.e. to be an advocate for those who needed a voice and to enable people to fulfil their individual potential and live their lives as they wanted and needed to.

Derek Feeley’s report and the work of Social Work Scotland in its numerous reports have well and truly described the ‘implementation gap’ between legislative aspiration around SDS and the on the ground reality, but chief amongst them must surely be the frustration and disappointment of the social work profession that the management of cases, the supervision of budgets, the emphasis on resource constraint and needs assessment has remained dominant and prevented a return to the essence of social work.

And in these last few weeks when the hidden crisis and breakdown of the social care system in Scotland has become ever more apparent to me, I cannot help but think how far that essence of advocacy and human rights protection that social work once enshrined seems to have become even more remote.

When I sit and hear as I have this last week of social workers in one authority visiting service users who have had packages of care and support lasting 45 minutes to inform them that after a ‘review’ that their care would be delivered in 15 minute visits (to include getting up, being bathed, and having a meal prepared) then I cannot but feel that the essence of social work is slipping away.

When I hear a social worker in another authority stating that a body wash should replace a shower (to save time); and that a local day service needs to shut because of resource constraints, I sense a slipping away of social work.

When I listen to the family of a man with a significant neurological condition, who had been used to four visits a day to support them, now being reduced to two, and the social worker saying that the family will just have to help out more – I see the essence of social work slipping away.

Now lest you suggest these are exceptions to the rule then sadly I would contend they are not rather they are the tip of the iceberg.

Undeniably I know that there are hundreds of women and men who are fantastic passionate social workers, and I know when I speak to them, how massively frustrated they are by the fiscal and managerial shackles they have to operate within. Every day they try their best to hold back a soulless system which is increasingly inhumane and disrespectful of the dignity and human rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Every day they voice their despair to managers and leaders for it to be ignored and set aside.

My old retired social worker friend remarked to me that with an increasingly overt emphasis on clinical care and assessment focussed on making sure people are safe and well but not much more, that the uniqueness of social work (and I would add social care) is being increasingly crowded out and pushed to the edge. The social, community dynamic of social work, which used to see connection and neighbourhood, community and relationships as intrinsic to wellbeing is being sacrificed by the bean counters and political expedients in our towns and villages. Life is more than maintenance.

I hope against hope that on this year’s World Social Work Day the strong voice of social work advocacy, the shout of defending the human rights of all, and the proclamation of the worth and dignity of the least is heard again in loud calls to change and challenge actions which are happening up and down Scotland today.

Someone a bit like Anna Wigeon’s social worker:

Mosaic
by Anna Wigeon

The study, work placements and exams are all done,
And now it is the hour for the clients to come.

Practice process explained and values declared,
Those attending may feel it’s now easier to share.

Hurting hearts, tell unique tales and words,  about need,
Words, they hope,  will be heard. ‘Loss’ is oft a core seed.                    

Those who want  to feel ”whole’ and who yearn to ‘belong’.
The rich gent and poor rogue, might recite common song’.

What change might occur, if a skilled helping hand,
Could give timely support to assist them to stand.

Many stories depicting a myriad of need.
Common circumstance  bringing so many to heed.

The homeless, sleeping on concrete sheets while their wits,
Go to waste and wither down the cracks in the streets.

Then there are those who just want to ‘Be‘.  Be free of,
Societal labelling and that online melee.

No-one’s is excluded from these hardest of roads,
Caused by abuse, violence; into slavery sold?

Thank-you for caring; choosing a social work role,
For giving  solace to those needing consoled.

Your compassion; open mind towards those in ‘chains’,
For your seeing anew and believing in change.

As you give of yourself and your social work skills,
Remember Self-Care and your support team’s good will.

And barring emergency……do try to leave at a reasonable hour!’

From Poems by and for Social Workers – Scottish Poetry Library

Donald Macaskill

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Being a shepherd: a reflection on the characteristics of leading.

A couple of days ago I had the very real pleasure of being invited to give a Fireside Chat to the participants in one of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland Leadership Development programmes. The Queens Nursing Institute is an amazing organisation and (in their own words):

‘supports, develops, and inspires Scotland’s community nurses and midwives to become agents for health improvement and catalysts for social change. Together, we are building a healthier, fairer, kinder Scotland.’

My ‘chat’ and conversation was centred around what I considered to be the key characteristics and marks of leadership. Having written more than my fair share on this topic over the years, not least in this blog, I tried to distil some of the main things I have learnt and experienced about leadership wherever that may be held or focussed. Here are some of my reflections:

For me the critical mark of all leadership is the need to be authentic, to mirror the reality of your self, ‘warts and all’. To be the real and raw ‘handmade’ person you are. Too often leaders and managers seek to mould themselves into the likeness of another, and that includes a mentor, or to shape themselves to what they expect the organisation or system demands and wants from them. That is not authentic – it is wearing a mask of pretence and usually (especially when the going gets tough) the masks slips and falls. Authentic leadership requires us to develop an honesty which allows us to be open, transparent and truthful with both ourselves and with others. In my experience such authenticity is what brings people in a team or organisation alongside a leader and strengthens the ability of all to be who they are. We need more people who walk their talk.

A mark of that authenticity for me is that it requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is often perceived as a negative characteristic or quality, but I very much believe that being vulnerable and being open to vulnerability are marks of essential humanity, not least in relationship to others. Vulnerability in itself is not negative; it is only when that vulnerability is mis-used or abused by another that it can become harmful and damaging. Being vulnerable is an openness to the unknownness and sometimes pain of encounter and the risk of losing your protection of self in order to achieve a greater self-discovery. In vulnerability there is a strength beyond the cracks and the brokenness.

A leader who can be strong enough to be emotionally mature and grounded, who is able to show emotion and empathy, to demonstrate the limitations of their own knowledge and skill is one that others can see something of themselves within.

Another element I reflected on was how important it is that leadership has a sense of purpose and direction about it. This is all the more important when particular context or circumstance is taken into account. In emergency situations for instance we do not look for a laissez fair attitude, a consultative engagement as primary, but rather when the chips are down, we want someone to be inclusively directive whilst appreciative of the diversity of those they lead and the requirement to shape action or response to the capacities of an individual. Occasions and contexts matter and whilst a leader should not be dominated by them a failure to be sensitive to the realities of the world around and an inability to be practically pragmatic helps no-one.

Over the years I recognise that the best leaders I have been privileged to work and be alongside, are individuals who whilst they have a clear purpose, direction, and vision, have invested in the people around them rather than just the achievement of particular goals. It used to be that being described as a ‘people person’ was considered something of lesser worth and value than someone who was influenced and dominated by process and models, outcomes, and outputs. Thankfully leadership and management approaches now recognise that the greatest asset in any organisation or system are the people and that nurturing and developing them is an essential task of team and group leadership.

There are other qualities I could add, such as the importance of determination and the ability to keep going despite obstacles or circumstance; the development of a resilience which isn’t just a springing back to doing things the way you have always done them but an openness to the new and innovative. I think of the ability to get to know the landscape and environment around you and to appreciate that the world we live in changes continually and often dramatically; or the recognition that we all change and need to adapt and be open to our own physical, mental, and emotional journeys.

I shared with the nurses I spoke to that over the years I have found strength in some of the metaphors and models for leadership, including the maieutic which considers a leader from the perspective of a midwife. But more recently, and in no small part, from reflecting on the life of my late uncle I have started to consider the metaphor of the shepherd as resonating with me in terms of what it conveys about leadership.

I have mentioned my late uncle Donald before. He was by modern descriptors someone who had a learning disability and who struggled with verbal communication, though those who knew him well could converse with him easily. A man of quiet behaviour and few words but of determined focus and comfortable routine, like many of his island age, he was a crofter-shepherd. In his case this was an art he carried out in the barren though colourful moorlands of north-west Skye.

Over the days and weeks, I spent with him I began to understand what the life of a shepherd was and much of it strikes me as descriptive of the essence of modern leadership in any context. It wasn’t a syrupy or romantic image or reality. it was hard and real. It included the need for preparation and planning, making sure you were appropriately dressed and prepared for the weather to change at any minute; a humility that recognised that you can never do things on your own but that shepherding is always a collective act even if alone; the appreciation of the need to know your environment and the limitation of your own knowledge; an openness to be moulded and changed by circumstance and terrain; a willingness to take your lead from those who ostensibly you are there to lead; to be able to read the happenings of the moment and to listen with a silence where sound can be heard in all its subtle invitations. It was a life which sought to become attuned to the rhythms of nature and which was rooted in the humble awareness of human insignificance in the face of the elements and the rawness of death and birth, grief and renewal.

But being a shepherd then was always about creativity and ingenuity, especially in the absence of easily accessible modern technology; it was a practised art where skill was developed over years of practice and the insights of failure and error as much as the moments of success. You had to be adaptable and innovative and able to use what you had around you.

Whatever your model of leadership, whatever metaphor speaks to you, there is a sense of dynamic movement about leading – ours is the task both as leaders (in whatever way) or as those who are led, to move towards the creation of communities and organisations, teams, and societies, where the voice of all are heard and the value of everyone is upheld, and where together we can all flourish and thrive, which is the daily task of social care.

Donald Macaskill

International Women’s Day 2024 – Spotlight

This International Women’s Day, we shine a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of past female winners at the Care Home Awards 2023 and Care at Home Awards 2023, celebrating their invaluable contributions to the social care sector.

With over 80% of the Scottish social service sector workforce being women, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the women tirelessly serving in various roles, enriching lives and fostering compassionate care across Scotland.

#IWD2024 #InternationalWomensDay #shinealight


Care at Home & Housing Support Awards 2023

Care Service Coordination/Administration Award – Karrie Henderson, myCare Grampian

Care Learning Award – Sharon Barton, Plus Homecare

Leadership Award – Liz Cassidy, Altogether Care Services

Positive Impact Award – Rachel Shepherd, Call-In Homecare

Strategic Contribution Award – Anna Houston, HRM Homecare

Care Home Awards 2023

Ancillary & Support Award – Maureen Cameron, Manor Grange Care Home

Meaningful Activity Award – Benore Care Home Wellbeing Team

Emerging Talent Award – Brogan McKay, Manor Grange Care Home

Outstanding Achievement Award – Sharon Findlay, Benore Care Home

Leadership Award – Kirsty Cartin, Rashielee Care Home

Nurse of the Year Award – Vany Thomas, Benore Care Home

Care Worker of the Year Award – Tracy Libby, Four Hills