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TIME AND TASK - A thing of the past

  • November 03, 2021
TIME AND TASK - A thing of the past

TIME AND TASK - A thing of the past:


When Wendy asks her mum about her twice-weekly home care visits, the answer is always the same. Sarah says, “Oh, they’re very nice and they always do a good job.”

Wendy can’t disagree with that. When the care package was agreed, she made sure that she saw the care staff in action. She knows they’re efficient, hard-working, polite and timely. They certainly help with looking after Sarah’s home and immediate health needs.

And yet, Wendy can’t help feeling that there’s something missing. The staff do what’s been asked of them, going through their checklists quickly and efficiently. But if only they could help Mum with some of the things that are really important to her.

There’s mum’s mobile, for example. Sarah loves getting a text from her granddaughter in Canada, but struggles to remember how to reply or view a photo. It’s just a little thing, but it would mean the world if she could send a message back. But the staff have a fixed time slot to do their cooking and cleaning duties, and there’s no time left over for Sarah’s texts.

Still, getting Sarah to accept any sort of home care was an uphill battle, and things are much better than before. This is just what home care must be like, thinks Wendy. As Sarah says, “mustn’t grumble.”

Sarah, Wendy, and task-focused care

Sarah and Wendy’s story is far from unusual. In fact, it’s repeated thousands of times every day across the UK. Many people receiving home care get the help which fulfils the needs of their medical conditions and home environment — and yet somehow manages to miss the person.

The problem is that people, the real people that we love and care about, can’t be summed up so neatly. They’re more than just types or lists of conditions. Their quirks, foibles, and above all, the things which give meaning to their lives, are personal and individual. It’s this human aspect that home care agencies often miss.

How did many of our care providers lose their way, and so badly?

One main reason has been the growth of a ‘task-focused’ culture which prizes efficiency, standardisation, and being methodical. This has some advantages, especially for an agency’s bottom line, but has one huge weakness: it frequently loses sight of the individual at the centre of the care.

Fortunately, in recent years, a more human approach has been gaining ground within the care sector— outcome-focused care.

Putting people first

Outcome-focused care is really a person-centered approach: in other words, it starts by asking what’s important for the person who will be receiving care. The approach then focuses on those outcomes which have more meaning for that customer. This could be anything from being able to send a text to getting out and about.

To help deliver these outcomes, there’s an emphasis on:

  • Developing the relationship between the care staff and the customer
  • building on the customer’s strengths and abilities
  • working with the customer’s, rather than for them.

In all these ways, outcome-focused care puts the individual back at the heart of the care intervention.

Two anecdotes from our own agency show what this approach can mean in practice.

Firstly, one of our customer’s had a personal goal of giving up smoking. To support him, Moesha, one of Retain’s healthcare coordinators, gave up smoking herself. The result was a health and wellbeing improvement for our customer (and Moesha!), a strengthened relationship between them, and a feeling of some personal accomplishment. This is light years away from a time-limited, task-oriented service, which tends to be limited to more traditional options, such as cooking and cleaning.

Another of our customers participates in Retain’s healthcare training. She shares her experiences of living with a degenerative disorder with both prospective and current nurses, giving them invaluable insights for their clinical practice. Because Retain’s outcome-based approach emphasises what our customer can do, rather than what she can’t, she is able to actively participate in a community that genuinely values her story.

Of course, not everyone needs to stop smoking, nor is everyone happy talking to a group of nurses. But that’s the point of outcome-focused care: it’s about identifying what’s right for a particular customer and helping them to move towards it.

Looking for outcome-focused care

There are many factors involved in choosing a care service, but one useful question for your potential providers is whether they follow an outcome-focused approach, and crucially, what that means in practice. Other factors being equal, our experience is that outcome-focused care is simply a better approach for most customers and their families.

Retain Healthcare is a leading provider of outcome-focused in-home care and support for elderly and vulnerable patients in the South West. Retain also recruits healthcare workers and provides high quality healthcare training. For all enquiries, please email

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