Putting the ‘social’ back into social care

Categories: Care.

When we think about social care, we tend to think of practical support for daily living, whether that be helping someone to wash and dress in the morning or providing assistance with shopping or cleaning. These are important aspects of social care and should not be dismissed, but they don’t tell the whole story.

At Sue Ryder we believe that good quality personalised care should include caring for all aspects of a person’s wellbeing, not just their practical living needs. That’s why in our hospices we offer a range of activities to enhance our service users’ life experiences, which go beyond what one might normally consider to be social care.

Our day therapy services are a vital part of the care that we offer the people we care for. These can include complementary therapies, as well as encompassing group card games and other social activities. The work that our day therapy teams do can help people to cope with a terminal illness. These social activities may not seem like ‘care’ in the traditional sense but they help to enhance our service users’ quality of life.

One of our service users summed up the support he had received: “Not only do they help me to keep on top of my illness by assessing and treating my symptoms every week, they are helping me to fight the depression and the panic attacks that I am experiencing.” 

We also offer a befriending service based at some of our hospices. The purpose of this is to offer practical support for people in their own homes, providing companionship, supporting individuals to continue with their hobbies and helping them to access services in their local communities. Illness, particularly terminal illness, can be an isolating experience, and this service is designed to combat that. It provides people with a mixture of practical support and human contact that is social and not simply tied to caring for a person’s physical needs.

One of our service users at Duchess of Kent House Hospice in Reading said: “This very kind lady has just started to visit me once a week. She took me to the bank so I could sort out some financial chores and then we had a lovely chatter and a cup of tea. It’s nice knowing that someone’s going to pop in regularly. I’ve only just started using the befriending scheme but I know it’s going to help me immensely.” 

It can be easy to reduce social care to something which involves simply tending to a person’s physical requirements, but services such as these play an important role in improving service users’ wellbeing.

When budgets are tight and time is limited it can be tempting to adopt a reductionist approach towards social care, focussing only on those physical needs which must be addressed. Yet I would argue that if we truly want to care for people, an element of that care must be social if it is to meet the hospice ideal of a holistic approach that cares for the whole person.

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