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31st October 2014

The Environment of Care

Active retired seniors, two old men playing chess at parkTo meet people's care needs, the environment must be recognised as an important element in setting up a care home service.

Firstly, everyone has social care needs, we need to interact with our social peers, with our family circle, and with our friends. This shows the importance of the location and structure of the home in planning a new service.

Community facilities

The location must allow people easy access to community facilities, libraries, cafes, shops, suitable public transport, and recreation facilities such as parks, cinemas and theatres. These features point to a city or town centre location. Residents of the home with their visitors, will be able, with support, to play a normal part in their local communities where they can be supported to take part in ordinary community life.

Size is important, frequent interaction with our peers is most often possible in small groups. Therefore a care service should be small in scale, ideally, with multiple pubic spaces. Where a larger service is planned, then it can still provide small group living to allow daily interaction with people who know each other.

Meet the needs of service users

Mobility and other equipment will be needed to meet the needs of service users. Storage must be planned in advance, for equipment such as hoists, stand aids, and wheelchairs. Many care homes, even designed recently, are increasingly unsuitable since the mobility needs of people coming into care have increased year on year. So we often find hoists or wheelchairs stored in bathrooms, or corridors. This can lead to restricted access at best, or serious injury from tripping and falls. So storage must be planned in a context of ever-increasing mobility needs and thus the need for flexible and expandable space.

Requirements of disability access

Obviously, if more than one floor of accommodation is planned, then this must also comply with good practice and legal requirements of disability access. Lifts to each floor, and easy wheelchair access using ramps where necessary are required.

Important too is the use of 'normal' accommodation. The care home should fit in with the local style of housing, and not stand out as some special location, with a large sign in front announcing hits special status! In my role as inspector, I have often rated services better where they have been difficult to find - this means that the residents are not stigmatised as being different, and living in a special, or different kind of accommodation from other people.

All of these points suggest good prior consultation with residents and staff to help design and implement a new service, and this should be essential for architects and planners of care homes.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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