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There’s no place like home

Phrases such as ‘no place like home’, ‘home sweet home’  and  ‘home is where the heart is’ have probably lost their meaning because they are so commonplace – but I feel compelled to write about the power of those phrases and how they should shape our future approach to healthcare with an aging population.

there's no place like home mhealth assisted living

I’ve been prompted by a couple of stories that have done the rounds in the last few weeks:

  • Firstly a report via the Daily Telegraph from the Care Quality Commission in England which found ‘appalling’ failings in elderly care
  • Secondly a speech by Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England, set out his vision that we need to bring care closer to the patients and dissolve the boundaries between social and health care.

These are by no means unique – you’ll see variations on this theme every day – and each time I see one of these stories I think ‘yes, please let me stay in my own home!’ I’m sure you do too.

My home is my castle

Why are we programmed to think this way? I don’t think it’s hard to fathom the many reasons, which are a mixture of logic and emotions:

  • We all strive to establish a home where we can be comfortable, happy and create a safe haven from external storms – shelter is a basic human need
  • In many cases we’ve spent years improving and investing in our homes to get to the one we call ‘ideal’, so there’s a great deal of financial and emotional investment in the home
  • If we’re fortunate, our home will hold many happy memories of personal events down the years
  • Our home is part of our locale, and reflects our choice of where we want to be – typically close to our social and family network.

It’s probably not overstating things to say we have as strong a relationship with our home as we do with our friends and family. So why is it when we get sick and old that the people who care for us (both professional and informal) should seek to break that relationship? I went through this cycle myself with my father, after my mother died. We assumed he wouldn’t cope on his own and packed him off to a retirement home as soon as there was the slightest suspicion he wasn’t coping – and within 2 years he was dead himself. He just shut down. Looking back it felt as if we didn’t have too many options at the time, and I’d hope that now I’d see a lot more choices in a situation like this. For example, a hybrid approach combining visiting carers to help with physical tasks with technology support for safety along with communications technology to enable easy interaction with family and friends might work well. All of this is now available and affordable, and that’s why my work is devoted to improving the technology and making it available.

In conclusion

It comes down to this – my end goal in life is not to be relocated to somewhere away from my social life, my comforts and my memories. My dream is to live as I choose until the last moment of my existence.

Let me know what you think – or if you have any ideas on how we can help people stay in their own homes – below, or you can always contact me.

 

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