The weekly podcast “Mojo” (Mike’s Open Journal) focuses on mental health.
On 26th May this year, in Episode 182 – Optimising Independence, the podcast editor, Mike Douglas, chatted with Claire Mould, CEO of Cintre.
After explaining Cintre’s role in supporting people with mental-health-related needs in both residential homes and community support, Claire reflected that, for Cintre, the current lockdown-easing situation has been the most anxious time of the pandemic so far.
Whilst those in residential homes still need protection from the virus, those living in the community are facing the possibility of emerging again, after eight weeks of virtual and remote support.
For many clients, having just got used to coping without social contact, this sudden change provokes some fear.
Cintre, in line with their person-centred approach, are being guided by the individuals themselves.
For some service users, Zoom meetings work so well that they wish to continue with them, and to stay at home for now. Others are keen to try face-to-face meetings again, to use face masks and to venture further afield – and Cintre’s staff are there to facilitate each individual response.
Claire also reflected on a personal career that has involved academia, research and running a charity for homeless 16-18-year-olds.
One thread has run through all her work – an exploration of the links between emotional and cognitive wellbeing, and that of optimising potential, enabling independence and supporting individuals that need support.
Cintre is continually exploring new ways to acheive these goals.
As part of its portfolio, the organisation manages a large, residential home for adults with dementia (Earlfield Lodge in Weston super Mare) and it sees no distinction between optimising independence in elderly clients with this degenerative condition and supporting younger, physically active people, noting, ‘We shouldn’t give up on them; they haven’t given up on themselves.’ Cintre’s first question, to every client, is always ‘How can we help you?’
Encouraging clients to access services is not always easy.
Claire observed that too many choices can be intimidating and overwhelming.
We are all creatures of habit, preferring to stick to what feels comfortable – even if that’s not in our best interests. And although we as staff may find services, groups and events inclusive and non-threatening, not everyone will feel the same.
She finds the rhetoric of ‘hard to reach’ and ‘lack of engagement’ difficult, with overtones of non-participation being the clients’ fault. Instead, she encourages staff to take time to listen and consider why people are in the position they are.
And when staff say that a client is challenging, then again the answer is, yes, that’s a given, that’s why they’re accessing our service. Our job is to understand their background (or at least part of it) and until we do we can’t hope to understand why they might not want to engage with groups, or develop autonomy.
So how can organisations help people to help themselves?
Claire speaks of the important links between sensitivity, stimulation and autonomy in allowing people to self-discover.
The starting point is always to simply be a nice person – listening to clients, generating trust by creating a sensitive environment in which people feel comfortable.
Only then can you begin to introduce stimulation, and this may be by saying something like ‘There’s a group you might be interested in. I was thinking of someone else – they might be interested too.’ And only at that point can people say, ‘I’ve really enjoyed this group because of this,’ or ‘I’d rather go to that group because of so and so.’ Or ‘Could you help me with this?’ – moving towards autonomy on their own.
You can’t rush people, or tell them what will be best for them – that way you invade their space and shut them down.
Claire cautioned that people working in this field need to be mindful when approaching commissioners and funders – that the outcomes of this careful, sensitive work cannot be time-framed, or judged in terms of numbers.
At the heart of Cintre’s work is an internalised difference that will stay with a person for good. And that can’t be reduced to a time-line.
Better to help six people over two years to make real, profound, life-changing progress, than 500 people for six months with ‘shot-in-the-arm’ activities, which may well be forgotten soon when the six months is up and there’s no more funding for follow-ups.
Lastly, Claire explained exactly what a ‘cintre’ is. It’s not the same as a keystone, which is a permanent part of a building. It’s a temporary aid to the building process, which is removed when the structure is strong enough to stand on its own. And that’s just how Cintre works. They only stay as long as they’re needed, providing a continuum of care and support until they have enabled an individual’s independence.
Listen to the whole podcast on Spotify – Ep182 – Optimising Independence.
The podcast is also available on other platforms, click here to find out more.