A care home group has taken the controversial decision to scrap staff uniforms in an attempt to improve relationships between staff and service users and reduce institutionalisation.
As part of its Household Model of Care, which views service users as family members and aims to provide a ‘continuation of home’, the Evolve Care Group announced to staff that they were no longer required to wear uniforms and encouraged them to dress in their own clothing. Although some staff were initially sceptical of the changes, believing that uniforms were essential to identify staff and provide a professional image, the change has since been widely welcomed and even commented upon favourably by the Care Quality Commission.
So, could a move away from traditional uniforms be something you should consider for your own care home? Read on to find out more.
Since the move away from traditional uniforms to everyday clothing, staff and service users at care homes run by the Evolve Group have reported improved communication, better relationships and some have also received compliments on their choice of outfit.
In some cases, staff have even taken the opportunity to choose clothing such as the football shirt of a service user’s favourite teams to help them engage and encourage conversation and relationship building.
One staff member who was particularly opposed to the change admitted later changed her mind saying “it’s not often I admit I’m wrong, but I was” before highlighting how much more relaxed staff felt and how uniforms had previously contributed to creating a divide between them and service users.
Are Uniforms Really Essential? Try these 3 Different Approaches and See the Results
- Mix and match: If you’re not convinced of the benefits of moving away from uniform or have concerns about whether it could work for your home, try a ‘mix and match’ approach for an agreed period of time and allow those staff who’re interested, to wear their own clothing whilst other continue to wear uniform. This allows you to observe any differences in the way service users perceive or communicate staff in different clothing and begin to identify any potential benefits.
- Take a personal approach: In dementia care, it’s often the case that service users respond better to something familiar or comforting and this can apply to choices of clothing too. Consider whether it’s possible to have a second set of clothing available to allow staff to make a “quick change” before providing personal care to a service user who might benefit from staff dressed in a less formal manner or who could become anxious at the sight of uniform due to past negative experiences or the association with hospitals.
- Could night time be the right time? Some dementia care homes have found it can be helpful for night staff to wear items such as pyjamas or dressing gowns to help orientate service users to the time of day and encourage them to settle for the evening or return to bed during the night. Loose fitting items can easily be worn over existing clothing and could make all the difference to encouraging a good night’s sleep.