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14th November 2014

Take care? Take risks!

Slack line in the nature.I have noticed that with each passing year people rather subtly begin to speak differently to me. One striking difference is that people often now say to me as we part, “Take care”. They never used to say that, and I wonder why. Could it be that I am approaching an age when most people stop work, or the lightening colour of my hair? Does it mean I am getting to be an older person?

What bothers me when I sit and think about this is that it might reflect a certain stereotype about age, and about older people. Instead of the exclamation “Break a leg!”, which used to be fashionable in acting circles some years ago, “Take care” expresses caution, and reflects a view of age that it comes with weakness and a decline in our abilities.

Perhaps there is some decline in ability with age, but this is most often compensated for with an increase in other aspects such as stamina, and, hopefully, more common sense!

Diminishing independence

I was aware of this during an inspection I carried out in recent years. I was speaking with a resident in a care home , and he went along the corridor to fetch a chair for me. As he carried it back, a nurse exclaimed: “Mr ....., stop! Let me do that for you.” And the man was deprived of that little opportunity to be courteous, and also to exercise his muscles. It emerged he had no health issues, but the nurse had an issue with his independence in that small task.

In further discussions with the man, I found out that much of his independence had been eroded during his stay: he did not have access to his car; he was not supported to go to community events (he loved community group walks); and clearly not encouraged to lift chairs!
We worked to assist the service to restore his activities and independence as much as possible. It was highly appreciated by the person concerned, and I think an eye-opener for the service.

Managed risk can be fulfilling…

I think we all need to be conscious that a life without risk is often less worth living. Risk needs to be managed, not eliminated.
There are groups for people nationally, called Growing Old Disgracefully: I thoroughly endorse the values expressed in that. One day I might even get round to looking them up!

*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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