“Where are my things?”

“Where are my things?”

You have arrived in your new placement, you’ve spent some time getting to know your client, you’ve familiarised yourself with the layout of the house and where most things are kept. However, it just isn’t the way you would organise your home, your kitchen, your living spaces and you are itching to dive in and rearrange the house according to your ideas of efficiency and aesthetics. But is this the right thing to do? For whose benefit will this really be?

We all run our own homes, no matter how big or small, and as such we each have our own ideas of how best to organise our space and individual rooms in the home.  We organise the kitchen so as to be more efficiently suited to the way we work, from which drawers we store our cutlery, to where we store the dishwashing liquid. Living rooms and bedrooms are also arranged to our personal needs, taste and the space available. Some of us like clutter and ornaments, while others can’t bear the sight of a cluttered mantelpiece because it makes dusting so much more tedious (Hear my internal groaning!).

So, when we go into a new placement and start to learn the ropes, it might be very tempting to start rearranging rooms and cupboards. We might want to move ornaments off the mantelpiece, we may even want to change whole rooms around and pack ‘useless clutter’ away in cupboards. Sometimes this is a legitimate part of a risk assessment, but more often than not it is done to make our lives easier with little thought for the person whose home we are reshaping.

Certainly, we need to do risk assessments, such as seeing how walkways can be made safer, taping down rugs and so on. Often bedrooms need to be slightly rearranged to accommodate new personal care items such as wash basins, creams, wipes, etc. If these small changes are for the client’s and our safety and/or convenience, we must act in consultation with the client and or the client’s family. People have often lived in their homes for decades and like the way things look and where furniture is positioned. Imagine how you would feel if a stranger took up residence in your beloved home and started moving your possessions around?

We need to approach this with sensitivity, and nowhere is this more important than when rearranging rooms such as the kitchen and living room to suit us. My general rule of thumb is not to do it. It may be more ‘convenient’ for us, but we are not in the placement for our convenience. We are there to serve the client. People tend to become quite resistant and even hostile to this kind of top-down change. Nobody likes having their things moved by others, especially by strangers without even a by-your-leave. It upsets people and can make some clients not only angry but anxious and resentful.  It is very distressing watching a stranger move our precious possessions around and rifle through our cupboards.

Moving things around to suit you may also affect your colleague. If you have been in a placement for a long time, think how you would feel if a new carer arrived and began rearranging things. You would feel irritated and disrespected, especially when you have to start hunting around for things.

Each placement is different and each client is different, and as carers, we need to use our common sense in this area. I once cared for an elderly gentleman who was not very mobile and had no interest in the kitchen. Over time (eighteen months of being in placement) my colleague and I made a few mutually agreed changes to suit us. It was appropriate in this case and did not affect the client.

It is vitally important that as carers living temporarily in other people’s homes we respect their homes, their possessions and their feelings and desires. It is not our job to re-organise another person’s home. It is our job to provide care and companionship in a way that upholds that person’s dignity and helps them to continue enjoying living in their home comfortably and contentedly.

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