“It’s funny how a bit of chocolate and kindness make the tears pour out of you”.
Sitting in the audience of Christina Castling’s play ‘Beyond Caring’ had my companion rooting around for tissues until a woman in the row in front handed her a packet; once the tears came they poured indeed. This tender telling of tales from the perspective of residents, care workers and relatives struck a chord and pulled on it.
Castling’s inspiration was drawn from her two years working in a care home and a number of stories were interwoven in this three-hander with each actor playing different careworkers, residents and relatives.
“I want to sit down and treat them like me mam …. But I’ve got this big list of jobs”. Mention of overworked careworkers and stretched resources came as no surprise. “None of this is right … it just is what it is”. The delight of this drama is that whilst there was a background of less than ideal working conditions, the stories of residents and their families, their very humanity, was centre-stage.
Stories are important
Stories are important and stories are powerful; they resonated on different levels and focused the audience on the person, on the human being, and not the job of performing care. This is a vital point, because if care homes are about person-centred care then the person, the human with a story and their family, needs to be present in that centre.
Care is about care – not task lists.
Queenie is protesting and is making a stand on a garden bench. Fellow residents bring her supplies – a KitKat to keep her blood sugar levels up and an erotic novel in case she gets lonely. At 83 she has taken up smoking; not because she has ever wanted to smoke but because she wants to counter the restrictions of her care home and make a decision for herself.
Wider political implications were touched on too with one woman emptying her mother’s house in anticipation of selling it to cover care home fees. “Why?” asked her grandaughter, “She’s lived here for years”. A question Castling doesn’t look to answer but she does share the awfulness of the situation, the emotional ordeal for relatives making these decisions, the burden of the work involved in house clearing and the heartbreaking loss when relatives are too late for the moment of passing.
“The ones who leave hospital and come straight here – they don’t get a chance to say goodbye to their homes”. At times the words were wrenching, painful.
Queenie’s story is the thread that runs through the ninety minutes of costume and role changes. The moral of her story is a lesson for us all: she is a person, with dignity and her own mind, she is not a piece of paper to sign at the end of a shift or a task to tick off on a list – the care home is her home. This is her home.
“I want the people I work with to see this” said my companion who works for the Care Quality Commission. ‘’I want my colleagues to see the stories, to see the person at the centre of the care plan. This is how we should complete inspections; from the resident then out.”
Beyond Caring is on a tour of the North East this autumn, with performances in multiple venues right across the region. More information is available www.beyond-caring.co.uk