The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step

I am thrilled to introduce this innovative and exciting human rights project, 'Rights Made Real in Care Homes', which has been kindly funded by Life Changes Trust, working in partnership with Scottish Care, the University of the West of Scotland and care home providers throughout Scotland.

Rights Made Real in Care Homes involves seven individual or groups of care homes which stretch from those living on the Isle of Tiree to those in the heart of Glasgow. Despite the distance, the overall aim is the same - to make rights real and change the lives of those living in care homes, to become more active, connect with their families and communities, be listened to, to participate in decisions that affect them and live a fulfilling life on their terms, regardless of age or cognitive level.

All the projects are at different stages of their journey; some are finding their momentum while others are nearly at the end. It is my pleasure to share with you the progress of the Fairfield Project and how meaningful change is being achieved by looking at care through a human rights lens and the journey staff and managers have been on thus far.

Fairfield Care is a group of three care homes located on the East Coast of Fife and in West Dunbartonshire. There are over 30 staff and residents included in this project which has been on going since August 2018. The ultimate objective has been to develop a practical and tested understanding of the practices that enable human rights to be realised for people living with dementia in care homes.  Fairfield are keen to recognise the good work that is already happening which is often overlooked or taken for granted.  This will help to close the gap between staff's existing knowledge, behaviors and feelings towards human rights and what the new Health and Social Care Standards expect to achieve so the person receiving care has more control and choice over decisions in their lives. This means staff providing this care must understand and have the autonomy and confidence to navigate conversations.

The Fairfield team have been working alongside colleagues from My Home Life to carry out Life Sessions which are sessions that use Caring Conversations and the LIFE approach tools to help staff connect emotionally, be courageous and consider other perspectives when they are interacting with the person they support and their families.

The project is still underway.  At the moment the team are developing a visual inquiry tool based on stories from the LIFE sessions and a new tool based on the wording of the Health and Social Care Standards, to make these more accessible to everyone.

It is not one size fits all

At first the team were apprehensive as there was a lack of understanding of the purpose of the project and it was viewed as another task that had to be completed. However, that quickly subsided as colleagues saw the difference in how those involved interacted with residents and the fun that was being had in the LIFE Sessions. Sandra says that overall the response has been a positive one and there has been a growth in confidence levels and a shift in attitudes, behaviours and feelings towards human rights in practice.

What started as a small project has had a ripple effect throughout the whole organisation. From how staff capture subtle moments and record a residents’ day to the physical environment to the language we are using in our paperwork and in practice.”

“By changing the language used from “how to support me” with “my ideal day” and “distraction techniques” with “helping me when I am in distress” on the paperwork it has challenged the team to look at our residents from a different perspective.”


Sandra would love more care homes to have the opportunity to do similar projects and would like to reassure others that human rights can be promoted in small interactions within the care home and in actual fact, already is but just needs to be noticed and viewed differently.

The project has encouraged staff to be creative in their communication approaches especially with those who have dementia and the LIFE  Sessions have been valuable in practicing story sharing and  reflective skills and capturing “little nuggets of gold” that help to deepen and enrich relationships between the residents, their relatives and the staff.

The sharing of knowledge is power

Sandra is now is coaching her staff on how to take their own LIFE Sessions and using caring conversations which has led on to changing the way they capture and record subtle moments in a person’s day. Sandra called this the “trickle effect” and hopes that the project will have this legacy after the funding ends. There’s more work still to do to consolidate the learning so far and finalise the tools so they can be shared.

When asked if the project has been valuable Sandra commented:

“Definitely. If we can do it, anyone can do it.”


Sharing knowledge and stories is a powerful way to learn and so the projects have been coming together monthly via conference call to discuss human rights issues, the stories that have emerged and how these have been navigated. These calls have been extremely useful in helping to work through and looking at stories using a human rights-based perspective. it creates a space to allow even the hardest of conversations to be had surrounding choice, dignity and capacity.

Human rights can help us to embrace the challenges that living with dementia can create. It is always best to start where people’s current knowledge is and build on that, making it relatable to their role.

After the first Introduction to Human rights workshop I held with care home staff, one member of staff commented:

“These are things I do every day and didn’t realise that I was meeting someone’s human rights. I found it very useful and I feel encouraged I am doing all the right things to help the residents.”

Follow the projects journey on Twitter: @rightsmaderealscot

Please do not hesitate to contact me for more information