It’s fair to say that the majority of care providers today are now fully au fait with providing safe, accessible entrances and exits within their homes. However, the likelihood for many is that once inside, there is still so much work needed around improving accessibility for residents in other less obvious areas of the care home environment.
For those individuals with limited mobility, the use of various aids available within the internal areas of care homes can still become restricted or even ‘out of bounds’ for those residents wishing to move around more freely and independently. In some cases, this will be the result of ageing or underfunded care homes that have not been able to sufficiently adapt the environment to promote meaningful independence, or risk assessments that are over cautious in trying to mitigate the level of falls or accidents.
The question is, can a happy medium be found? Much of this comes down to people’s individual choices about how and where they would like to spend their time. It is then the care providers’ responsibility to ensure that these choices and preferences are considered when determining and agreeing what risk measures are appropriate and required. Once this criteria is established, the care home can utilise services such as ‘Remap’, a charity designed to help make adaptions to people’s mobility equipment so that they can live more independently. Age UK can also be a great information resource for care homes looking to adapt and modernise their mobility provision.
When considering mobility issues, care homes have traditionally adopted the protocols of more conventional NHS-based services, such as physiotherapy. But thinking more laterally about the environment and what solutions are fit for purpose may solve some of the more complex mobility challenges facing service users today.
How can care services ensure that are meeting accessibility requirements, though? A good ‘test’ of this is to gain feedback from people inside and outside of your care service who have a variety of mobility issues, to help analyse the overall effectiveness and accessibility of the environment in reality. Using this kind of ‘dynamic’ information can help care providers to formulate and appropriate accessibility plan for their service to ensure that everyone receiving care has the same choices in terms of how they move around the setting and where they decide to spend their time.
It goes without saying that risks do need to be well-assessed and carefully managed but, with practical involvement from individuals using the service, these risks can be discussed as part of an effective care plan ensuring that residents are involved in the process too. Despite popular belief, risk assessments do not have to be complicated, but they do have to be practical and meaningful. Thinking of ways that positive risk-taking can be promoted within the assessment and subsequent management plan will benefit the service user as well as send a clear message that the provider has an inclusive and robust framework around assessing, monitoring and encouraging people to continue living their lives to the full.
Regular robust checks must be made in the case of all equipment in and around the home and it is vital that the individual staff members who are responsible for this task are professionally trained in performing these specific checks. Care Quality Commission (CQC) will expect these regular checks to be up-to-date, with a clear schedule in place highlighting the actions being taken where there are obvious deficiencies.
In the end, those care services that are truly accessible to all, will promote equality and diversity within their services and will demonstrate to the outside world that people with mobility issues in their care can confidently access and move around with freedom, while enjoying the spaces that they choose.