How we support people moving out of long-stay hospitals
Andrea Wiggins, New Project Director at Avenues talks about how we work with people moving out of long-stay hospitals, and support them in the community.
Avenues started in 1993 supporting people moving out of long stay hospitals in Kent who had often lived there their entire life. People living in hospital are often those with behaviour that challenges and complex needs. Working with these people is our primary focus because we know that with the right expertise and support, people with complex needs and behaviour that challenges can be better supported in the community.
We believe supporting people in the community is important for a number of reasons. Firstly it gives people far more independence, they are able to make choices about what they want to do, and when they want to do it. Secondly the hospital environment can be extremely distressing and in many cases causes behaviour that challenges as opposed to minimising it. By moving people into the community we are able to support them in a way that suits them, and design an environment which they are happy and comfortable living in. This in turn minimises behaviour that challenges and improves their quality of life.
A recent example of this is a lady we support in Croydon. One year ago Lucy* was living in hospital, an environment she found extremely distressing. She now lives in her own home, near her family in Croydon. Lucy’s support needs have decreased alongside a reduction in behaviour that challenges. A few weeks ago she was supported on a trip to Paris, something she had decided she wanted to do. Moving from hospital back into the community has made this possible, and has had a positive impact on Lucy’s life.
We have lots of experience working with people coming out of long stay hospitals, but we never stop learning. A project group is involved each time we start supporting someone which includes: Operations, Practice Development & Assurance, Learning and Development (L&D), HR and me as New Project Director. Each team is responsible for different elements of the transition, for example HR will be involved in recruiting support workers, and L&D will ensure training is in place when it is needed.
We start to get to know people before they leave hospital. This often involves our Practice Development Leads who are experts in Positive Behaviour Support and Person Centred Active Support; two techniques central to Avenues approach. We meet people a number of times before they leave hospital so that we can learn as much about them as possible and therefore tailor their support to meet their individual needs. At this stage we will begin writing support plans, with the understanding that these may need to change when the person leaves hospital.
How many times we meet people and how involved they are with their new home before they leave hospital is different for each individual. The project team tailor our approach to each person. We understand that the transition from hospital to the community can be distressing and that’s why we take a person centred approach, based on what we have learned about the individual. We’re always learning and developing the way we work, and each time we start supporting someone new, everyone who has been involved contributes to lessons learned. This means we are consistently learning, developing and improving the way we support people moving from hospital into the community.
*Not her real name
22nd March 2017