Opinions

Making ‘Human Rights’ happen in care homes for older people

Written by: Caroline Emmer De Albuquerque Green, Doctoral Researcher on Human Rights in Care Homes, King’s College London

Published: 11/12/2018

‘Human rights’ are notoriously broad and difficult to define, here are three steps to support embedding these in practice.

Happy 70th Birthday to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The historical document came into existence on the 10th of December 1948 and with it the human rights and freedoms of all members of the human family. Human rights are at the heart of Scotland’s new Health and Social Care Standards. What better way therefore to celebrate 70 years of UDHR than with the publication of practical guidance on how to explore the new standards and what it means to bring them alive in Scotland’s care homes for older people?

‘Human rights’ are notoriously broad and difficult to define in practice. Especially care homes for older people often suffer from a reputation to be poor places for respecting residents’ rights. In the new Health and Social Care Standards, care in line with human rights must be based on dignity and respect. It must be compassionate, inclusive, supportive and responsive. And it must be geared towards the wellbeing of care home residents and other recipients of care. But still, these principles do say little about what it takes for people working, living and visiting care homes to put them into practice every day.

To explore this important issue of ‘making human rights happen’ in care homes for older people, the Health and Social Care Academy (a programme of the ALLIANCE) and My Home Life Scotland hosted an event for care home staff in May 2018. Out of this, the ALLIANCE published the report A human rights Blether: Using storytelling to explore human rights in care homes?’ and a tool called the ‘Human rights Blether Map’. 

This practical guidance shares the learning from the event with everyone working, living and visiting care homes. Importantly, it highlights following points:

1: Care in line with human rights already happens every day in Scottish care homes.

Through story-telling, participants of the event proved that people working in care homes already bring human rights alive every day for their residents. This may for example be through listening to resident’s concerns or good experiences in the care home or making a special day happen for them. The Human Rights Blether Map and the step-by-step guidance how to use it supports people in care homes and other care services to explore their own stories and map them onto the Health and Social Care Standards.

2: Human rights are about good relationships between people. The purpose of human rights has always been to define human relationships. For a long-time the focus has been on the relationship between government and citizens. But, documents such as the new Health and Social Care Standards show that human rights are also about the way people in care services treat each other. Positive, caring and compassionate relationships are relationships in line with human rights.

3: To make human rights happen in care homes for older people, we need to work together and consider care home residents for who they are – equal members of our communities.

We thought you might also like: