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.