Our CEO’s latest blog: Turning remembrance into action
On Sunday the world seemed to stop and rest for a moment in remembrance of the millions who gave their lives in the First World War and in memory of all those since who have died after the war to end all wars. Remembrance Sunday was a day full of words and music, poetry and prose, pageant and solemnity. It was also, I suspect, for many a day when more personal stories and memories were brought to mind and shared with family and friends. For me it was a day when I remembered my own grandfather who left his Skye village as a boy and returned years later a man who whilst he carried a medal for his bravery also brought back the scars of encounters and experiences that would fragment his living and ache his heart until he died.
Remembrance is many things to many people. It is both an act of literally ‘re-membering’, of putting back together the stories of a broken past but it is also about a resolve and a conviction that the lessons of that painful past need to be so real and so vital that the journey into darkness can never be repeated.
In a few days’ time many of us will be gathering in Glasgow for the annual Scottish Care conference which is this year called, ‘A Caring Place.’ In thinking about it I could not stop recollecting the first person I ever met in a care home on a visit as a child. I forget his name but I remember his face etched with lines of laughter and fun, and the fact that he was introduced to us children as an old soldier of the First World War. Characters like him are long since gone from our communities and our care homes, but Friday in its own way at the conference is about remembering, putting together stories and developing resolve to learn from the lessons of the past.
Scottish Care’s policy and research manager, Becca Gatherum will be publishing her latest report. This report is an exploration of the role of care homes, past, present and into an uncertain future. It is a remembering of the role of care homes through good and ill, it is a challenge to the casual myths and stereotypes which still dominate the public perception of care homes, and it is an articulation of what the future needs to be if we are to continue to celebrate the best of care.
Care homes are very much ‘caring places’. Places where those with memories fragmented by the awful disease which is dementia are able to find assurance, comfort and a degree of purpose; where those who are living with palliative and end of life conditions are able to live to their fullest until the moment of their end; where those who have grown into frailness find the support and strength to still contribute, be valued and have purpose. Care homes are marvellous places of care …
But there are still too many times when care homes are painted as places of negativity, of emptiness and abandonment.
But there are still too many colleagues in health and social care who do not value the work of those whose skill we will be celebrating at our Care Awards on Friday evening, who do not see the professionalism and recognise the excellence happening in care homes up and down Scotland every moment of every day of the year.
But there are still too many in places of policy development and decision-making who have an image of those who reside in care homes and what care homes do which is dangerously out of date and unappreciative of the reality of complex compassionate care.
But there are still too many who decide upon resource allocation and strategic priority who dismiss the ‘homely setting of our ‘caring places’ as spaces beyond our contemporary need and purpose without realising the tremendous untapped potential of care homes in the modern era.
Remembering the past can become a dangerous illusion if we remain in the memory but can be the most enormous strength if we use the energy that it gives to change the world around us and find new purpose and direction.
The Scottish Care conference on Friday is both a reflection on the contribution of care homes in the past but much more importantly it is a looking forward to how these places can become the heart of our compassionate communities, how they can become oasis of belonging for the thousands who live in loneliness in our villages and towns, how they can be at the forefront of innovation, person-led dignity and rights based choice and control for all.
Dr Donald Macaskill