‘You can change a life in a few minutes…’
In my role I inevitably spend a lot of time with policy makers, commissioners and politicians talking about and not infrequently arguing over the nature and state of the homecare sector in Scotland. In some of these discussions I get a sense that folks do not really understand the nature of the care and support the sector offers and delivers. For too many there is still an outdated image of homecare as ‘mopping and shopping,’ as a set of practical activities designed to make people feel better but not much more than that. As almost like an added luxury! This lack of real understanding of what homecare is has become especially evident during this General Election – albeit that these issues are technically reserved matters in Scotland – when it is clear that there is a lack of public and societal awareness about the nature of what homecare is and how critical and vital it is for tens of thousands of people.
But when you strip all the debates – which are critical – around commissioning, funding, workforce and the future away – what you are left with is a consideration of what the essence of care at home and housing support is.
That is why Scottish Care has been articulating our own definition of social care – in part because far too many people (and some of these should know better) keep conflating social care with health care – which it clearly is not! We have stated that:
‘The enabling of those who require support or care to achieve their full citizenship as independent and autonomous individuals. It involves the fostering of contribution, the achievement of potential, the nurturing of belonging to enable the individual person to flourish.’
Homecare is that care and support which enables and empowers an individual to be free, autonomous and independent in their own home. It is the energy which gives purpose to someone wanting to remain in their own space and place, it is the structure of support and care which enables citizens to remain connected to their families and friends, their neighbours, streets and villages. It is not an added extra but the essential care that enables life to be lived to its fullest.
The best of homecare is a care that changes life and gives life.
Some of my readers may know that I am a bit of a Bruce Springsteen obsessive. In an interview which he gave around the time he launched his autobiography in 2016, Springsteen said that:
‘You can change a life in three minutes with the right song.’
He expanded on this by talking about the power of song to change a life and give voice to a story which is not heard or told; the importance of his own challenging upbringing in giving him continuity and boundary, freedom and permission. He spoke insightfully about the way in which words and music can create a possible future for those who feel alone, empty and directionless.
At the time the sense of words and music changing and transforming a life struck me as being a powerful description of the musicality of one of the greats of his genre. But I also think that it is a description of the essential life changing and enabling power which lies at the heart of care. It is this ability to change a life through care and support which we are celebrating in this second Homecare Day.
The women and men who work in homecare are life-changers. The reason that statement is true is that by their acts of personal care, by supporting someone to take their medicines, to get up in the morning; by making sure their space and place is tidy and safe, that hazards are controlled or removed; by taking someone to a club or to their family, to an activity or simply to belong somewhere, these women and men who are the workers of care are the gifters of purpose and meaning to so many. This is not incidental it is essential. It is this work that binds a community together, that truly creates neighbourhood, and moulds togetherness in the midst of our cities, towns and villages.
Most of us are able to be independent – to get around on our own, to have the control that we need not be dependent upon another. As life changes through age or illness the loss of that independence and the forming of bonds which make us reliant upon another can be both challenging and difficult for our sense of identity and self-worth. It is in this territory that the marvellous work of support and care locates itself and comes to the fore.
Good care is not about taking over another person’s autonomy, good support is not about creating dependency – they are both the total reverse. They are the actions and deeds, the words and encouragement that enable others to either re-discover or find for the first time, the abilities to make decisions, to exercise choice, to be in control and to be independent even if support is needed to achieve that goal.
This is why homecare is important – it is because for so many of us being in our own space and place surrounded by familiar furnishings of our memory and the story of who we are, are critically important to enabling us to be ourselves or to be the person we dream of becoming. The autonomy that homecare gives a supported person enables them to flourish to their best and continue to grow into the person they want to be.
So, if a good song can change a life in three minutes then good care and support changes a future forever.
So today let us celebrate homecare as the lifeblood of a society which cares.
Dr Donald Macaskill
CEO, Scottish Care