Thousands of home helps and domiciliary care workers in Northern Ireland who look after the sick and older people in their own homes are unsung heroes, according to research carried out by Dr Kevin Moore (pictured), who graduates with a PhD from the University of Ulster today.
Omagh-based Kevin, now a lecturer in Ulster’s School of Nursing, qualified as a nurse in 1987. As a student at Ulster, he developed an interest in the social, psychological and biological aspects of ageing and has become particularly interested in the mental health and wellbeing of the older person.
Dr Moore said: “My research focuses on the role that home helps and domiciliary care workers have in keeping a person ‘in their own wee corner’. While government policies promote the concept of integrated services – from social workers to geriatric consultants – evidence shows that the home care worker has a connected and vitally important role to play in effective health and social care delivery within the community.
“The home care work force is motivated by altruism and a person-centred caring ethos. Many home helps, domiciliary care workers and community care assistants become part of an extended family and provide a support service often beyond the call of duty. Workers value the importance of their role, but there exists a disconnect between valuing of the role and it’s recognition within the wider Health and Social Care context.
Worldwide demographic trends indicate an expansion in the older person population and an increasing need for home-based social care provision. Dr Moore’s evidence also suggests that many home care workers are mature women, with a mean age of 53 years and are therefore themselves becoming part of the ageing population.
These rapidly changing demographics demand that all stakeholders – government and health service providers – engage in joined-up planning to meet the diverse future needs of the older person
Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety recognised the value of Dr Moore’s research at The Culture of Change Conference which took place in March, marking Derry~Londonderry’s year as City of Culture. The study has been presented to government ministers and Kevin hopes that his recommendations will shape future service planning and home care provision.
He commented: “Caring, as a professional attribute, is fundamental to the ethos of the School of Nursing at Ulster. Through my research I have been privileged to encounter many home care workers who, although unregistered and not regulated like many other health and social care professional groups, operate like professionals
“They demonstrate a wide knowledge of social care policy, are completely person-centred and give much-needed hope to the older person. The significance and value of their work within the wider context of Health and Social Care should not go unnoticed.
“The health service is currently facing many challenges – from negative publicity to budget cuts. It is imperative that a lack of effective integration, planning and joined-up thinking does not impact on the quality of services provided by the home care worker, to those most in need.”