Every year we carry out a survey of people living in our extra care housing (ECH) to get their feedback and to check out if they are happy with their support.
It’s well established that the involvement of older people themselves is crucial to developing effective services. Therefore, asking our customers what they think about their support seems an obvious way to improve the services that we provide at OSJCT. An added benefit of listening to our customers is that we can clearly demonstrate we are complying with a new requirement within the CQC inspection regime which emphasises the need to encourage customer feedback and utilise this for the benefit of those living in our care homes and extra care housing accommodation.
This year we decided to go a bit deeper and talk to people face to face about their experience of ECH. OSJCT has an ambition to expand its housing with care so we took the opportunity to talk to people about their reasons for choosing to move to ECH in the first place. We want to involve people in our plans for the future. Drawing on the experience of older people currently living in our ECH facilities is a great opportunity to get some free advice!
We talked to over 60 people in three of our ECH facilities, Florence Court in Trowbridge, Shotover View in Oxford and Oxlip House, Bury St. Edmunds. We hijacked coffee mornings and residents’ meetings to hold a “structured conversation” using a number of pre-determined questions. We also gave residents the opportunity to talk to us in private and held individual conversations over lunch with people who didn't fancy attending the group.
You can see details below, but in summary the results were very encouraging. People were overwhelmingly positive about their experience of extra care housing and praise for the staff was consistently high. All the feedback we received is really valuable. It will help us to improve design, facilities and services in future developments and we're very grateful to everyone who took the time to take part and give us their views.
Results of the discussions:
Residents were overwhelmingly positive about their experience of extra care housing. We found a strong correlation between what people were telling us and the (limited) literature on people’s views about ECH. The key messages were:
- People are happy living in extra care. They especially value the physical environment and the quality of the staff support on site.
- Although people generally didn’t want to leave their family home, reluctantly moving because of a health event or loss of a partner, they still regarded their move to ECH as a positive choice, securing their future as they age.
- It’s difficult to create a sense of community with relatively small numbers (50 flats), meaning organised activities are hard to sustain.
- ECH works particularly well for couples, enabling them to stay together through thick and thin!
Positive aspects highlighted were:
- The quality of the physical environment, both private and communal space
- The ability, for those with limited mobilityto navigate within their flats and to store their equipment, [for example saying “Apartments are nice, spacious and light with space for my future needs”.]
- Location of the ECH facilities. Being within walking distance of a shop was really important, as was access to a bus stop. Most people did their own shopping and maintained an active social life outside of their home, including welcoming visitors.
- Feeling safe was rated very highly.
Praise for the staff was consistently high across all the three services "The staff are all helpful and kind and very eager to please us."
More variable comments related to:
- quality of the catering. Some people did enjoy, with the food but others declinedto use the restaurant at all. Nevertheless, there was a positive attitude to neighbours from the community using the facilities, with recognition that the restaurant would not be viable without the additional income.
- Maintenance and speed of repairs.
However, the only real source of dissatisfaction, also echoed in our ECH survey, was with aspects of the social life. Despite obvious friendships between residents and one person commenting “There’s always someone to talk to when you walk out of your door”, many people felt that there was not enough in the way of organised activities and they expressed great frustration that many things had been tried but had quickly become unsustainable due to low numbers of participants. These ranged from exercise classes (which everyone seemed to want) to cinema clubs.
The viability of the activities was not related to the presence of an activity co-ordinator, or the willingness of residents to pay for, or put on activities themselves, but rather to the relatively low numbers of residents, which meant that there weren't enough people to create demand for activities on a regular basis. Interestingly, despite the small sample, people who had purchased their own apartments were most likely to express disappointment in the lack of activity and seemed to have higher expectations of an active lifestyle following a move to ECH.
We asked about reasons for moving into ECH. For the vast majority, this was as a result of a health event, such as a fall, or early stages of dementia. This was particularly true of couples, who really valued the opportunity to be able to stay together when one of them had become unwell. An added benefit was that the “carer” could still maintain an active lifestyle, in the knowledge that their partner was safe and supported. One man said “My wife had Alzheimer’s, we lived a long way from the hospital and my wife was deteriorating but since moving here she’s now on the way up!”. For some, it was due to the loss of a spouse. Others cited their inability to maintain their former house or garden.
While everyone said they missed their family home, people recognised that they might need more support in the future and that this was the best way of securing it without another move.
With regard to finding the type of property they wanted, about half of the residents had viewed other places before choosing OSJCT. Approximately a third of those we talked to, had been persuaded to move by their offspring, some of them relocating significant distances without even viewing the property. The lack of information in general about housing with care was remarked upon by a couple of people.
In summary it was very encouraging to find that people living within OSJCT extra care housing were satisfied with their services. They were happy with the choice that they had made, and willing to recommend a similar move to a friend.
The feedback tells us we need to give further consideration to optimum size and location. While there were no surprises in our findings it was important for us to sense check our understanding of what older people think about ECH. It may go without saying, but a lot of people said they were pleased to be asked for their views. We will make sure we take account of what people tell us as we shape our future plans for housing with care at OSJCT.