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Nursing and care homes: the new schools 4 basic nursing care?

Posted Jan 25 2010 4:01pm
I do not wish to denigrate the quality of care in nursing homes, as I've blogged previously there are others better placed to do that when needed. In some the nursing care is exemplary and this is evident not just in their inspection rating, but the morale of staff, the reports of relatives and local community plus other indicators - especially when you visit and use your senses. As a nurse you are duty bound to assess the quality of care wherever your practice takes you. In the homes where the care is very poor, there is no escape from that reality. The reality of poor care first hits visitors when they smell the home they have entered. If there is no escape for them - well what then of the residents and staff?

Now an extended and dedicated role for nursing home liaison within community mental health nursing has arrived* and taken root, this must say something about the quality of care in this sector (and not merely suggest a shortage of Consultant Psychiatrists)? Nurse, service managers and commissioners recognise that if they do not preempt the referral torrent (or trickle from some care homes!) then community teams will grind to a stand-still. Care homes need assistance even as private businesses in assuring their holistic competency.

If services do not stem that referral flow as a wave or otherwise, they will in turn become second rate first-aiders with no primary purpose. They will be forced to respond repeatedly to the same client RE-referrals, the same set of disjointed, fractured physical:mental:social health problems presenting in a series of unique individuals. And this is not person-centred care.

What the nursing home liaison role says is that here is one place we can locate the theory-practice gap, a skills gap and a lack of integrated, holistic person-centered care. Mash-ups may be desirable in the virtual world, but in care delivery - is that safe? Too frequently the mash-up of combined physical and mental health problems pass staff by. The problems go unrecognized, they are there: evident, but disguised; due to lack of comprehensive observation, life histories and despite the question and answer sessions at the gates (service interface). However it is described (e.g. single point), the specialisation of community mental health teams into memory assessment, intermediate, community mental health, ... depends on the vibrant management and quality of referrals.

Much is made of nursing homes registered as EMI (Elderly Mentally Ill) and their need for or access to a registered mental health nurse (RMN); but RMNs in turn rely on the ability of more junior staff to observe and accurately report the basic aspects of the resident's physical and mental state. If equity for older people in care is to be achieved, then although the care - nursing home sector is 'private' and a 'business' there must be an accommodation, a partnership when it comes to education and valuing time invested in these homes.

*Additional links:

http://www.careinfo.org/congress/pdf07/07par.1340q2-joannehirst.pdf

http://www.mentalhealthequalities.org.uk/our-work/later-life/communities-of-interest/care-homes-liaision-/hartlepool-care-home-liaison/


Image source: Neo - The Matrix http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/psychology/
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