Blog – is it possible to be too caring?

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Being compassionate and kind are positive human qualities that are particularly important for health and social care professionals. And yet, what if some actions associated with being kind and helpful impacted negatively on people’s wellbeing?  Health and social care professionals have thought about this as part of the Care about Physical Activity programme and gave us some insights into this dilemma.

‘’We always welcomed people to the day care centre by helping them out of their coats at the front door and hanging these up in a different room. Then we wondered whether this caring approach could be actually limiting people’s movements and possibilities. Now people help each other out of their coats, find their pegs, walk to a different room and chat as they hang them up and so on. And people we thought would never be able to find their own coat at going home time, have learned a new skill.’’

‘’We served breakfast at people’s tables. This included pouring tea and juice, buttering toast and bringing bowls full of yoghurt and fruit. We always rushed to make sure that the residents didn’t have to do anything for themselves. We then changed our approach so that now most folk help themselves at a breakfast buffet. People have started eating more, trying out different types of food, moving more and being more independent. One 94 year old woman makes sure to help another woman who has difficulty moving to the buffet herself and is delighted with being able to help others.’’

Some recent research carried out in care homes in both Glasgow and Barcelona tells us that participants in the study ‘’.. spoke of their wish for autonomy and being independent, willingness to be useful and to feel busy, as well as not wanting to bother anybody:

“I don’t want to see myself sitting in a wheelchair and being totally dependent on others.” (Female, 83 years old, Barcelona.)

Residents identified the benefits of moving more and sitting less for overall health:

“I think it is just better mobility, ( . . . ) exercise is really good, it keeps  you going.” (Female, 79 years old, Glasgow.)

The residents felt they had the capacity to get involved with household chores and tasks within the care home:

“I would like to help out with different tasks, I want to feel useful, help out. ( . . . )

There are a lot of tasks that can be done, and some of us could help and that would keep us moving more often.” (Female, 103 years old, Glasgow.)

Residents agreed in the importance of having frequent reminders and encouragement to move more:

“It helps me when I’m told to stand up and walk ( . . . ), they do not let me sit for a long time.” (Female, 87 years old, Barcelona.)

“When it is nice out, they tell us to stand up and go for a walk in the garden, I like that.” (Female, 79 years old, Glasgow.)

Staff and family members could identify ways to increase movement within daily routines, with regular reminders, as well as suggest activities that residents like to do and are capable of doing.

(Excerpts from International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Article A Novel Approach to Reduce Sedentary Behaviour in Care Home Residents: The GET READY Study Utilising Service-Learning and Co-Creation Giné-Garriga, Sandlun, Dall, Chastin, Pérez and Skelton.)

Louise Kelly CAPA Programme Lead said: “This research is a helpful reminder to us all that older people want more opportunities to be mobile and to do as much as they can, to be independent and be reminded to keep moving . Perhaps care professionals and family members can start by asking, what people can do instead of what someone can’t do . We can also try to increase the opportunities for people to do things for themselves or others. When we step back a little bit, it might be possible for someone to step forward, similar to the experiences in the day care centre and care home we heard from earlier in this article.”