Care homes are communities full of interesting people with unique experiences to share, each one of whom deserves respect.
One of the most basic principles of compassionate care is including residents in decisions that affect their well-being. With that in mind, CQC, CI and RQIA inspectors look for evidence that care home staff provide clear information, talk with residents (and, where appropriate, family members) and listen carefully before moving ahead with treatments or services.
At inspection, this falls into the CQC “Is it Caring?” key line of enquiry (KLOE). If you’re in Scotland, parts 1.2, 4.2 and 5.2 of the CI quality framework cover compassionate care. In Northern Ireland, take a look at the “Is care compassionate?” domain in the RQIA provider guidance for adult residential care homes or nursing homes.
Here, we'll explore practical ways to build trust, foster community, share information and involve residents in decisions about care, so they are – and feel – valued, heard and empowered.
1. Create a supportive environment
Imagine being in a place where you feel welcome, cared for and appreciated: that's the kind of environment we want to create for our residents. Permanent team members and temporary staff can help bring this reality to life by being approachable, friendly and attentive. A warm smile, a kind word or simply taking the time to chat can build real trust and communication.
- Encourage staff to use friendly, positive body language with residents and greet them by name – even if they’re not working directly with them at the time.
- Organise person-centred care training sessions to help your team understand compassionate care. (Psst, we have an expert-led course on exactly this topic on Florence Academy.)
- Check in with residents regularly to make sure they know you care for them.
2. Listen with empathy
Listening is an art – especially in a care home – and it's important to listen to residents carefully and without judgement. They might feel concerned, want to make different choices or share stories with you. Giving them space to talk, and listening with empathy shows them that their feelings and opinions matter. What they tell you can help you understand them more deeply and provide better personalised care.
How to build your empathetic listening skills:
- Listen without interrupting, then rephrase and repeat what the resident says to make sure they feel heard.
- Remind staff to put themselves in residents’ shoes and try to imagine what they’d need if the roles were reversed.
- Put regular one-on-ones between your team and residents on your calendar, just to have a chat and a cup of tea.
3. Talk to residents about care
Having no control over life choices can be disheartening and frustrating, which is why it’s crucial to involve people in decisions about care. So, talk to residents about daily routines, meal choices, activities and health-related matters – all the things that directly impact them. Offer them options, and respect their decisions. Doing this can give people a sense of autonomy and boost self-esteem.
- Approach care-related discussions in a calm, compassionate way, giving residents time and space to respond.
- Reassure residents that their concerns matter, and that you won’t move ahead with any treatments or activities without full consent.
- Give residents who need more time to think or communicate, and those who need help making decisions, extra attention to make sure their needs are met.
4. Make information easy to find
Informed decisions are the best decisions. When residents have access to clear, simple information, they can decide what they really want to do. Make sure team members use simple language to explain things, rather than confusing jargon or complicated medical terms, so residents fully understand the options they have.
- Use visual aids, like models or diagrams, to help you explain complex ideas.
- If the information you want to share applies to everyone, put it on a noticeboard in a common area.
- Use leaflets written in simple language to remind residents about topics.
5. Respect privacy and independence
Privacy and independence are basic human rights – even in a care setting. Residents need personal space, so it’s vital to respect boundaries. Simple gestures, like knocking on bedroom doors before going in or asking for permission before moving personal belongings, can make people feel valued and in control of their surroundings.
- Don’t talk about private matters in common areas: wait until you’re in a confidential setting.
- Ask for consent before sharing a resident’s personal information with anyone.
- Make sure residents know they can spend quiet, uninterrupted time by themselves, and remind them that they can decline group activities if they want to.
6. Write tailored care plans
We’re all unique, and so are our residents’ care needs. That’s why tailored care plans are so much more effective than a “one size fits all” approach. To create personalised care plans that really work, we need to know more about residents’ values, cultural backgrounds and interests, as well as what they like and dislike. In other words, we need to get to know them properly (see point two).
- Spend face-to-face time with the residents in your care home, and try to remember unique things (for example a stamp collection, or a fascinating story) about each person.
- Talk about treatment or service options with other professionals to make sure you provide the best possible care choices.
- Use this handy care plan template from Florence to help you organise your thoughts and write a thorough strategy.
7. Regularly review care plans
Life changes constantly, and so do the needs of care home residents. So, don’t forget to regularly review and adjust care plans to make sure they’re still relevant and effective. For example, in a dementia care setting, you might need to change how you support residents as their memories decline. With updated care plans in place, people can continue to stay active and enjoy life.
- Make a date in your diary every month or quarter to go over residents’ care plans and prioritise people whose needs tend to change more quickly.
- Go through each care plan step by step to see if there are better treatments or services available.
- Ask for feedback about the current care plan from the resident, and where appropriate, family members.
8. Foster a sense of community
Many residents love being part of a community, which isn’t surprising: a solid support network can improve mental health and overall well-being. Group activities create a sense of belonging among residents – both old and new – and help people socialise and build friendships. Overall, a strong community spirit can make residents feel happier and more engaged, so it’s worth investing in.
- Host interesting events in partnership with community organisations, like singing or theatre groups, in your care home.
- Encourage residents to share their talents, stories and experiences with you, and with each other.
- Use soft furnishings, artwork and games to make your common area more comfortable and inviting.
9. Celebrate victories, large and small
All victories are worth celebrating – even the little ones. Paying attention to what your residents do and honouring their achievements can make them feel proud and appreciated. Whether it's completing a puzzle, sharing a funny story or reaching a personal goal, acknowledging a win can boost confidence and lift spirits across the board.
- Present residents with certificates or small prizes at a mini awards ceremony every month to show them you care.
- Display resident artwork, photographs and other items on a “wall of fame” in a corridor or common area.
- Celebrate residents' birthdays and special occasions with personalised surprises and thoughtful gestures to make them feel seen and appreciated.
10. Involve family members
The relationships care home residents have with their family members are incredibly valuable. By involving loved ones as partners in decision-making and providing regular updates about residents, you can create a robust support system to help them stay active and thrive.
- Keep family members in the loop with weekly or monthly health and well-being updates.
- Organise events to help engage family members and try to get to know them as well as possible.
- Ask family members for feedback about their loved ones’ treatments and services.
Bonus tip: boost continuity of care with Florence
We know how important continuity of care is in a care setting. Residents develop meaningful, trusted relationships when they have the same familiar caregivers over time. They’re more likely to talk about sensitive topics and care-related decisions with people they trust.
It’s also important to remember that when nurses, care assistants and support workers know residents well, they can provide person-centred care more easily. With effective continuity of care in place, communication flows easily between care professionals, residents and family members, as well as through the caregiving team.
If shift gaps and staffing shortages happen, it can be tempting to go into “panic mode” and book any available nurse, care assistant or support worker. But it’s better to form a relationship with a trusted staffing provider in advance to make sure you keep continuity of care in place.
When you partner with Florence, you can book your own staff first, then fill remaining shifts with experienced Florence care professionals. Every Florence nurse, care assistant and support worker has to pass a thorough background check before they can work with us, so you can feel confident when you book care professionals.
Here’s what you get with Florence:
- Access to a community of 90,000+ fully-vetted care professionals.
- Invite care professionals back again and again to improve continuity of care.
- Set your own rates to save 30% on agency costs.
- No monthly subscription fees – turn to us only when you need us.
- CPD-accredited training with Florence Academy.
- 24/7 support from our friendly team, plus incident management support.
We’re on your side, whether you need us regularly or just occasionally. To find out how we can help you find, train and retain the right people, click here.
Giving everyone the care they deserve
In this post, we’ve gone beyond daily routines and charts to explore what you can do to build community and involve residents in decisions about care. You can honour them as individuals by creating a welcoming environment, actively listening, explaining options, and writing and reviewing tailored care plans.
Finally, working with a staffing provider like Florence can help strengthen continuity of care and communication, so residents feel empowered and supported. Let's work together to make sure residents receive the respect, compassion and care they truly deserve.
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