Quality of Life Factors for Residents of Group Homes
“Traditional institutional minder care remains rife in many group homes”
It is most encouraging to see the Community Visitor Program in Victoria increasingly focus on the quality of life of group home residents. It is so easy for residents to receive just minder care. This is direct care staff doing just domestic and personal care, with little or no meaningful and consistent engagement with the residents.
The lifestyle of those with limited intellectual ability is reduced beyond the belief of most of the general population, yet the bar can be raised for most through quite basic but consistent interactive and developmental activities – in contrast to looking at four walls day after day.
The community visitor report 2012/3 says, under dignity and rights (page 43), that communication is vital for us all. They have focused their enquiries on whether communication assessments had been conducted, and if so, how the recommendations were implemented, at both the home and across all areas of the person’s life.
While regular staff have devised ways to understand and communicate with residents by using signs, gestures and pictures, casual staff are unlikely to be aware of them. Few people have had access to speech therapists and other experts. Some aids that had previously been used have fallen into disuse.
Many residents have been waiting a long time, sometimes years, for assessments. With little access to free speech-therapy assessments, the high cost to the resident, up to $1800, to seek a private assessment is another reason why they are not undertaken.
Furthermore, when communication assessments have finally been conducted, the recommendations made are not always being implemented. Some staff reported they are not able to do this. There is a need for more training to assist in this area
The use of electronic devices is being considered in two houses. As there are many applications now available, it would be good to see new technology being used by the residents to enhance their communication.
Key worker reports [page 40] are considered by DAS [DHS] to be an effective method to record outcomes but do not always provide details of personal goals being actioned, achieved, or reviewed. Industrial action in DAS houses during 2012 meant individualised reviews were often not documented.
Community Visitors notice a difference in the quality of [staff] support between houses [page 40]. A stable team of staff provides a better quality of life for the residents compared to houses with roster vacancies or a high use of casual staff in both DAS [DHS] and CSO houses.
The above extracts from community visitor report 2012/3 makes reference to such quality of life factors as, communication assessments, key workers and direct care staff:-
- There is often little staff interest in obtaining electronic communications devices for residents, or in motivating and training them to use these. It’s mostly too much trouble to get the money, anyway!
- The theory of key workers is that they shall, like good parents, look after the best interests of their person. As the key worker is an employee of the service provider, their loyalty is most naturally with the body which pays their wages, rather than the resident for whom they are the key worker – Parents are still required to live forever!
- A difference in the quality of staff support between houses is directly caused by the failure of management above house supervisor to set, monitor and maintain staff work value expectations - with houses running on staff integrity. Good staff integrity is great, but human nature is not consistent. Residents should not have to say, “We are lucky to be in a good house!”
Extra 1: Positive Support Proposals by the Eastern Metro Region of DHS Victoria
Extra 2: Quality of Life Active Support Avenues
Extra 3: What Constitutes Lifestyle Quality
Extra 4: Media Releases by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield
Extra 5: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission calling for people to join Disability Reference Group 2014 – 2016 (Closes 30 April 2014)
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