Written by Meg Wilding, Best Practice Health Facilitator and the MacIntyre project lead on The Victoria & Stuart Project.
As I write this blog we are in the midst of training staff at MacIntyre, Dimensions, and a few other smaller organisations on how to use the ‘toolkit’ with people who draw on their support. It’s been a really busy few weeks and it’s been a great opportunity to stop and reflect on how the process has gone and is going.
There has been some challenges with encouraging managers and staff teams to get on board - with the pressures that our frontline staff are under at the moment; short staffed in many areas; outbreaks of flu and covid meaning that staff booked onto training are then needed on shift, lack of technical equipment (laptops etc..), capacity that only allows us to react and reach out at crisis point rather than a preventative approach… and also the topic itself! It’s a natural human instinct to want to protect ourselves and others from situations that may be uncomfortable or upsetting, but what is important to note is that from the upset and uncomfortableness is how we grow, how we learn and how we become better.
Yes, there has been challenges, but there has also been a great amount of interest from people who are living through supporting a person whose health needs are changing, homes where people are growing older, and also those supporting people on the palliative care pathway. All of these staff members have one thing in common – they want the best possible outcomes for the person they are supporting; they want the person’s voice heard; their wishes and choices recorded; for the person to maintain their dignity, and for the person and their wishes to be respected!
There has been great success and heart-warming stories before people have even begun to use the toolkit following their involvement in the training. The first topic that The Victoria and Stuart Project team approached in the training was how to talk about death and dying. Support Workers, Frontline Mangers and Service Manager’s joined the first day session’s with anticipation as to what they were going to learn.
A service manager who is currently supporting someone who is on a end-of-life care pathway approached me a few days after the training and expressed their empowerment from the session - that what they had learnt gave them the confidence to approach the flat mates of the person who is dying to explain to them the changes that they are going to notice with their flat mate and that he is not going to get better and is going to die. If it wasn’t for the training this conversation may not have happened, or the conversation may have gone in a different direction that may have been softer to deliver the news but harder for a person with a learning disability to understand.
A Support Worker from the same service also spoke to me and said that the training gave her the confidence to talk openly to everyone that she is supporting about their flat mate, she has been able to answer their questions without fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and has created beautiful safe moments where people drawing on her support have felt empowered to ask more questions and know that it’s okay to be upset, and that its okay to be upset together.