On a recent trip to Cambodia and Singapore I visited the older members of the community where they were being cared for and spend their final days. In Cambodia, where there are no formal aged care services; I found the older members of their communities being care for by each other in either family or Buddhist temple settings. The choice is often made by the oldest members of families in Cambodian society to leave home and move into a temple and take on the lifestyle of a Buddhist Monk or Nun.
I was honoured to have had the opportunity to visit these folk and talk with them about their lives and experiences. I asked them if they missed anything about their previous life. The answer when I’ve asked that same question of elder folk in New Zealand has resulted in a long list. These gentle folk smiled broadly at me and told me no, there was not a single thing they missed. Their families still came to visit them. It seemed that was all they needed from life as it was!
In caring for each other these ladies practiced the principles of person-centered care. They were not familiar with the term, were not trained nurses and were not carers who had received formal training. Never the less, they provided care as needed by those receiving it. This was about social housing and accommodation rather than a focus on infirmity, disability or ill health.
On my visit to a nursing home in Singapore, it was inspiring to see the elder ladies sewing staff uniforms and other elder men and women preparing vegetables. These would become meals of the children crèche down the road. These folk talked as they worked together. They were connecting and contributing. Making a difference. They were needed and had value. They held a high status within their community.
In the Singapore Nursing home residents lived in the nursing home in 8 bed units, men segregated from the woman. The sense of connection between residents however was obvious from the numbers of people I saw sitting beside other residents’ beds talking with them, interacting together and chatting as they worked.
There were trained nurses and the Welfare Officer who was a fountain of knowledge talked about person-centered care. The residents’ activities programme was full and could have easily been transferable to any NZ residential care facility.
The terms used were the same as ours but as I looked around I could see the implementation of person-centered care was very different from our interpretation of that type of service. Residents were certainly engaged, appeared happy and well care for.
What struck me however was how different our understanding of the term ‘person centered care’ is and how a society’s culture or organisational policies can mean our practice is very different.
This is an important factor to remember when recruiting staff that have been trained and work in other countries. When you describe something to an applicant you’re recruiting and they say they understand the concept, does it necessarily mean you have the same understanding. The picture in your mind of what the outcome will look like may be very different to their mind-view? Sometimes it pays to ask more questions!