For me family has always been the people around you that you can rely on – the ones that are always there, the ones who don’t judge, the ones that you will do anything for.
When designing a model of care we wanted to instill these family values in the team; into the community that we called a care home.
We have found that the language that we use, the labels that we attach to both people and interactions are extremely important. The word that is used to describe a person can set the tone of the way in which we approach them.
The label family immediately gives a different status to the person about whom you are referring to. You give your family member more importance than the unnamed person that you met on the street two days ago. If someone is your family member there is a social expectation that you will know everything about that person. If I asked you when your Aunt’s birthday is, there would be an expectation that you would know.
These values are values that we want to actively encourage in care communities.
So we dived into the world of sociology and found the generally accepted definition of family member to be:
“We’ll define family as a socially recognized group (usually joined by blood, marriage, cohabitation, or adoption) that forms an emotional connection and serves as an economic unit of society. Sociologists identify different types of families based on how one enters into them.”
At the time it made perfect sense. We want to create families within our communities where the barriers are broken down, people are important to each other, and love and bonds are created through knowledge of each other's life histories. It is our hope that our families will then be able to share their dreams and desires with each other.
So in place of the word service user, resident or client we asked our teams to refer to those people living with us as their family members. The label creates the attitude and drives the values and behaviour that one would expect in a care setting; trust, happiness, openness and love. To be a family member in an Evolve Community does not mean that we are replacing the original family – we simply become an extension of each other’s families in order that we can work together to support the person in care.