e-Learning – A Solution to Care Home Abuse

Matthew Rowland, Senior Product Manager Care Division of ThirdForce, the UK’s leading compliance training and e-learning provider, highlights one approach that could be used to tackle the issue of neglect and abuse in the care sector.

The current issue
Leaving a loved one and placing them in care is a highly emotional experience for many, though some comfort can come with the reassurance that they will be looked after 24 hours a day by fully trained staff. At present however, Age Concern are currently criticising the lack of progress made a year on from a parliamentary report that recommended an “entire culture change” to tackle human rights abuse experienced by older people in the care system. Examples have recently been reported of older people being left to sit in their own excrement or denied food and water because the staff are too busy. Disturbingly, accounts of residents being left naked in front of other patients, or being heavily sedated so they are easier to care for, have also made the headlines.

There are five main categories of abuse. This includes physical, financial, sexual and pyschological abuse as well as neglect. Age Concern (2008) estimates that 500,000 older people are subject to abuse at any one time, mostly in healthcare settings. This alarmingly high number must be addressed.

So how can the care sector rise to the recent criticisms of human rights abuse?
Employing staff that are compassionate and keen to cater for every resident’s individual needs is of utmost importance for care home managers. The training of these staff is a mandatory requirement that all service providers face, and also one that causes much debate.  To guarantee an appropriate and deserved level of care for the UK’s care home residents, it is essential that social care workers are presented with fresh approaches to working and learning.  Does one provide classroom based learning which involves workers leaving their normal shifts and cover needing to be sought to care for the residents? Or does one explore the modern alternative approaches to learning, such as computer based training? More must be done to improve the quality of care services, beginning by putting all human rights values at the core of everything they do. This is where care-specific e-learning courses show their true colours!

Goodbye to traditional training
Many care home managers perceive classroom based learning to be the ‘only’ option for training their staff. However recently, those departing from the traditional approaches have seen the array of benefits available. There is now considerable interest in how alternative learning technologies can be fully utilised.  e-Learning, for instance, is not a completely new phenomenon, it has existed for many years, and yet recently its popularity appears to be growing at an incredible rate.  It is a modern alternative to ‘pen and paper’ teaching methods, defined as computer based learning, encompassing training, education, just-in-time information, and communication. Essentially, e-learning enables both care home managers and care workers to reap the benefits that computers and the internet provide.

Managers throughout the social care sector are all too aware that the training and development of staff is full of difficulties. But at the same time managers must be aware that their residents come first and the way they are treated is of utmost importance. e-Learning designed specifically for the care sector allows workers to take part in an interactive induction to delivering care and also to become knowledgeable about the rights of the service user (the resident).  An inductive process of learning now allows for employees to grasp a sound understanding about the Skills for Care minimum standards. This method of ‘try and see’ learning is 100 per cent more motivating, compared to the traditional ‘tell and test’ activity, as it builds on prior knowledge and allows for discovery to occur.

Engaging and empowering staff, through e-learning training programmes and guidance tailored to their specific roles in the organisation, is a key responsibility of service providers today. They must help them to act and make decisions on the basis of human rights principles. Staff need to be empowered to propose changes in their own work and suggestions for the organisation to protect human rights. Providing opportunities for the staff to voice their views and experiences and any relevant solutions ensures that care workers feel valued. It is also the service provider’s responsibility to train its employees to listen to the service users. Residents and families must be given information about their human rights and how they can be expected to be treated. In order to fulfil this responsibility care workers must have a sound basis of knowledge.

The recent reports of heightened abuse and neglect are further addressed through the learning outcomes of the ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Knowledge Set,’ issued by Skills for Care in February 2007. This really is the key to a care worker’s job role. Each resident is referred to as a vulnerable adult as they have reached an elderly age. Difficulties of daily living such as cleaning and dressing themselves place them as vulnerable and dependent on others. For this reason workers must have a sound comprehension about how to deal with vulnerable individuals. Courses such as Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) cover topics such as types of abuse, recognising and reporting abuse, roles and responsibilities, legislation and the POVA list. Active online learning environments are places where this type of exploration can occur. Care workers can ask questions about how to safeguard their residents and in turn be answered by an online expert, a ‘real person.’ Character simulations engage the online learner in a social experience where a virtual teacher guides the pedagogical delivery. These characters take on personality through their visual impact, choice of language and even voice.{mospagebreak}

Person Centred Planning (PCP)
Fundamentally, modern e-learning solutions, such as the ThirdForce portfolio, address a Person Centred Planning (PCP) approach. PCP discovers and acts on what is important to an individual. It is a process of continual listening and learning, focusing on what is important to someone now and in the future. Care workers must realise that the care they provide to one resident may not be appropriate for another. It is essential that care workers not only provide activities that suit the individual, but also become aware that some residents just want company, to sit and chat about things on their minds.

In order for workers to truly understand a PCP approach, learning materials need to be on hand, 24/7. This is where e-learning comes into play. Content can be revisited for re-enforcement as and when convenient.  Many learners in the care industry find studying at their own pace, and at a time and place to suit as a bonus because this ensures minimum disruption to the daily work schedule. 

In order for care workers to truly grasp a sound understanding of their job role, interactive learning materials are a must. e-Learning provides materials for a range of abilities and learning styles. Multimedia, sound, animation and video enliven presentation of factual information. Online multimedia scenarios provide ‘real life’ situations of delivering care. This, when viewed by the care worker, can increase their confidence that they too are delivering appropriate care to their residents. It is often the case that staff know what they would like to do, but lack the confidence, time or resources to put this into action.

Service providers must do more to support the good work of the majority of their staff who are caring for older people. By adopting good practice and committing to human rights within their organisation, the care workers will in turn have increased confidence and self esteem.

How can e-learning guarantee change for the service provider?
The most forward thinking e-learning solutions provide a comprehensive audit trail to remotely track and monitor learner progress at company, division, area, site and learner level.  This highlights to the service provider underperforming areas and also identifies those performing above target.  It also allows the care home to rest assured that when a random inspection is carried out by the CSCI, all employees’ details, training records and qualifications are on hand. Evidence that the service provider has a system in place to address mandatory training and, most importantly, the issue of human rights, can be printed instantaneously.

Strategically e-learning supports streamlining, cost effectiveness and economies of scale.  This is achieved through reductions in the delivery costs of training as up-to-date content is accessible from one central source.  A reduction in travel costs, training centre hire costs and overnight accommodation is also achievable, as learners can study from their site of work or from the comfort of their own home.

Most importantly, e-learning ensures that service providers can train a higher number of their workforce at a lower cost, resulting in more staff and better care.

The staff of the UK’s 400,000 care home residents have considerable power and influence over their well being. As a role laden with responsibilities and mandatory training requirements, care home managers and service providers must provide ample sector specific and efficient training to ensure that their employees are offering the residents the best quality of care that they are entitled to. e-Learning provides an efficient route to training, facilitating companies to undertake a modern and forward thinking approach. In this way, care home managers can raise standards, without the excuse of budgets, lack of equipment or time. Ultimately, residents can have heightened confidence in the staff providing their care.

For further information, please visit www.thirdforce.com
or call 020 8843 5500