The issue of sex and sexuality in nursing homes is a topic that is rarely discussed, even in nursing homes. But determined to make a difference and empower its residents, Exemplar Health Care decided to lead a change.
In this blog, Julie Booth, Quality Manager at Exemplar Health Care, talks about the introduction of a new training program for nurses and care aides, to address what has long been widely considered a ” taboo”.
We are all sexual beings – we all want to be loved and we all yearn for intimacy at times. And it should be no different for people who live in nursing homes.
However, sex and sexuality are topics rarely discussed in health and social services settings.
Earlier this year we rolled out training, designed by national charity Enhance the UK, to our team of 3,000 people and 36 care homes.
The training aims to empower and enable colleagues to confidently discuss these topics with the people who live in our care homes, and to be fully aware of what is safe and legal.
At Exemplar Health Care, life is about choice.
We want to encourage and support people to feel comfortable and confident in expressing their sexuality and sexual needs as they choose, and in seeking and exploring relationships of all kinds, in a way that promotes their choice and their dignity, and ensures their safety.
And it’s not just about sex, it’s also about platonic relationships.
We all have friends and people we love to be and interact with, and we want to give the people who live in our homes the same opportunities.
Research with the University of Leeds
The project dates back to 2019, when we worked with the University of Leeds to research the subject.
We were looking broadly at the needs of our service users and realized that we weren’t addressing some things as much as we should and thought there might be some unmet needs.
We didn’t think we could do such unbiased research, so we asked the university to review this for us.
The mandate of the study was to understand the extent to which people’s needs were met for personal relationships, intimacy and sexual expression.
The results suggest that many people living in care homes felt they weren’t allowed to have personal relationships and highlighted how people want a friend who is there by choice rather than because it was. their work.
The extent of low self-esteem resulting from disability was laid bare, with one participant asking, “Why would anyone want to be with me? »
Some of the comments were really poignant and it was clear that they felt like they were missing out on some aspect of life.
Training of nurses and caregivers
We wanted to help give people the confidence to explore these topics and talk about their feelings and needs.
We ordered Improve the UK to consult on a culture change project, which included developing policies, designing training and producing resources for the company.
Earlier this year, we started rolling out training across the group as part of a ‘train the trainer’ approach, and it’s already proving positive.
We know some people find these conversations uncomfortable and difficult, which is why we have a team of clinical experts who are committed to supporting the program and ensuring that we bring real change for the people we support.
The idea is to start conversations and change the way people think around friendships, sexuality and disability.
We fill out a feedback form at the end of each session, reviewing what they had in mind at the start and whether their opinions have changed. A lot of people admit they thought it would be about sex and nothing else, but there’s so much more to sex.
For some residents it will be about sex, for others it will be about feeling attractive and making friends and acquaintances.
We can already see that people are thinking a lot more about the subject. There’s a lot of misinformation about the law, for example, what people can do legally and what the limits are, so we help with that awareness as well, as well as the mindset.
We hope to embed this culture throughout the operation, in our recruitment, onboarding and supervision process.
About Exemplar Health Care
Exemplar Health Care is a leading provider of specialty nursing care for adults with complex needs.
We have 36 nurse-led and growing homes across England. If you are looking for a complex care placement or an exciting change in your nursing career, visit the Exemplar Health Care website: www.exemplarhc.com