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All the comforts of home?

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

Perhaps 20 years’ ago, I visited the Royal Hospital Chelsea, had lunch there and was able to chat with some of the retired former servicemen – the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’.

The hospital part of the complex was much as one might expect any cottage hospital to be; four-bed wards as I remember, with some single rooms. The care home provision was more ad hoc; I remember a glazed corridor, off which were a row of alcoves, each of perhaps nine square metres which served as some of the pensioners’ rooms. I recall the overall impression of a lot of varnished timber and a lot of military memorabilia; fading regimental photographs in monochrome, framed commissions for the Royal Engineering Corps and the like. It was homely and comfortable, and the residents I chatted to seemed very much at home and relaxed in their environment.

I visited the facility again some years later and everything had changed, apart from the grand old wood-panelled dining room. The little alcoves off the glassed-in corridor had all been replaced with spacious, CQC-compliant private rooms with en suites. I could have been in any other modern, purpose-built care home. The pensioners I chatted to, still in their scarlet coats, seemed no less at home, and no less happy, but no more so and oh, so much of the character had gone.

More recently, my wife and I stayed in a long-established hotel on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere. Our room had a huge bay window overlooking the lake, the furniture was antique and it cost us quite a lot to stay there, but we much preferred it to anything a modern hotel has to offer, no matter how many pillows they clutter the bed with.

By now you’ll know what I’m getting at; that 20 years of rigid regulation has resulted in a stultified sameness, an ascendancy of compliance over character in too many contemporary care facilities. I note that many of them are now marketed as ‘care centres’ – a tacit acknowledgment that the idea of ‘home’ has got lost along the way?

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

3 Replies to “All the comforts of home?”

  1. I still can’t understand what business it is of government, the regulator or anyone else for that matter what size, type, or quality of accommodation someone chooses to live in. Isn’t it a basic human right to be able to choose how one lives? If a provider offers small, poor quality, non e/s accommodation and finds that nobody chooses to live in it then isn’t that simply market forces telling them something? An adult or their POA or their advocate can make choices. The state, in whatever capacity, has the responsibility to ensure that providers offer safe accommodation – nothing else. You can’t tell providers on the one hand that service users should have choice and the ability to make independent decisions about their lives then start to dictate room sizes.

  2. Oh yes! The standard furniture, genteel curtains, crockery and cutlery. Living your life in a nondescript four-star hotel. Uniforms and another blasted 1950s shop. It’s dead but there are “activities” every day. Conform, comply . . . die. There’s a standard for everything and “quality” rules. Even the relationships of care are standardised. Awful.

  3. Why not go the whole hog and bring back shared rooms – and shared commodes if you really want to save on capital expenditure? Let the state do no more than look on benignly; after all, what does the state know about quality? Except in a democracy, “the state” is us, all of us.

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