The Good Care Series - Communication and independence

In our latest collection of articles, named ‘The Good Care Series’ we will be celebrating good practice and championing high quality care and support. We will be talking with customers and colleagues to explore what good care looks like for people with different needs and in different settings across our organisation.

Communication and independence

Our next article focuses on improvements made to one of our residential care home environments, which have helped create a culture that supports communication and promotes independence.

People with learning disabilities can experience a range of challenges affecting how they express themselves and how they understand information. However, these challenges can be overcome with the right materials, careful thought and staff who learn about individuals’ specific approaches to communication.

The team at Winston Court have been developing resources with the people they support, to help promote positive communication across the care home.

The right information in the right format

The team have created highly visual display boards for the service. These provide people with clear information about who is working with them each day, what activities they can expect and their menu choices for the day. Two of the residents, Danny and Stuart enjoy their daily routine of keeping the display boards up to date. Krzysztof Subik, Deputy Manager, explains

“We intentionally created large and user-friendly boards. We know this approach is not suitable for every person and every environment, but it works for people at Winston Court. The layout and style reflect the communication needs of the residents. We use clear, high-quality images, so the people can see the information we are sharing.”

Not only do the images on display provide information for people to understand critical parts of their day and lives, but it also creates a talking point within the home. Residents are keen to show visitors their board and discuss their activities.

The timetables develop as people’s interests and needs change, informed by conversations with people’s keyworkers and during regular House Meetings, where people share their views and ideas about activities in and around the home.

Independence and Personal Care

People are encouraged to play an active part in their home, with team members encouraging people to take on tasks as much as they can, from unpacking the food shopping to helping with their laundry.

The visual schedules help create clear structure and expectations, but the team continue to focus on individuals and not rigid routines, for example where a person might decline personal care offered in the morning as per their care plan, the staff take time to listen and agree a more suitable time with the person on the day. The ethos and approach of listening, gentle encouragement and working together shine through in all actions of the team.

Accessible information has been put in place across many areas of the home with pictorial signage on doors, reminders about hand washing in the bathrooms and pictures of any planned special events. The team even display clear information about the date of the next fire drill, to help people prepare for an event that could otherwise be anxiety-invoking.

Listening Well

An important aspect of good communication is about actively listening to people. Many of the people living at Winston Court have unclear speech and vocabulary but the team have built a deep understanding of how each person communicates, what their gestures, sounds and body language mean and are able to interpret and respond appropriately. Kirsty Skrzypczak, Governance and Quality Assurance Manager recently carried out a quality audit at the service. She reflected upon her visit:

“People appeared so happy and were interacting with the staff. It was clear that they were being listened to and understood. We know that a trigger of behaviours that challenge can often be due to frustration around communicating needs and wishes. The team have clearly helped create a calm and pleasant environment, because they have all the tools and knowledge in place to communicate and listen effectively.”

The team have ensured that this deep knowledge of each person’s unique communication style has been captured in their care plan and is regularly updated with the individual and their wider support network.

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