‘I try not to drink too much water when I’m on the ward so I don’t have to leave my child to go to the loo’.
This was a statement shared by Dr Kate Oulton, @DrKateOulton, a Researcher who was sharing her findings from interviews with families who had children with learning disabilities spending time in hospital. Whilst there was positive feedback relating to care in Kate’s NIHR research there was lots to reflect on too, how should we challenge ourselves ‘to do better’ to be kinder and more thoughtful?
Sonja Jacobs @SltSonja has been doing similar work with families who have children with complex needs in Tower Hamlets. Sonja shared the feedback from families about the multiple appointments they face, not knowing who their key worker/consultant is and no access to signposting for peer support. Sonja’s work affirms many of themes in ‘Caring more than most’ https://contact.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns-research/caring-more-than-most/ research done by the University of Leeds, supported by Contact @contactfamilies, that shows a quarter of parents with disabled children provide an unimaginable 100 hours of care each week, I cannot begin to imagine the exhaustion they face.
Carmen Soto @gourmetpenguin a Paediatrician has also been interviewing families who care for Children with invasive devices e.g. gastrotomies, Hickman lines etc. Carmen shared the privilege of entering homes and seeing the reality of caring for children with complex needs. As a doctor she reflected on the impact kindness has with families. A mum, Willow, who tweets as @riverthistle draws powerful images (TY for sharing on social media Willow) conveying the exhaustion of parents, Willow shared having medical staff acknowledge the caring responsibilities she carries on her shoulders means the world.
The consistent theme that emerges from all of these conversations is the value and impact of kindness from professionals when people are facing such complexity.
But what is kindness? Definitions include it’s the quality of being friendly, generous, they are considerate acts, good deeds, good turns, favours, acts of assistance, service, help or aid.
I think it’s worth busting the myth that ‘being kind’ happens automatically, being kind and thoughtful requires effort and energy.
But where do we get that energy ‘top up’ from to help us be kind in the demands of daily practice? If people are kind to me I’m far more likely to pass on kindness by being kind to others, but if I’m worn down by daily hassles then it follows I’m not going to be as kind in my approach as I’d like to be. The circumstances around us (or some may say culture) such as our colleagues and their behaviours play such an important role in our acts of kindness to others.
However when we’re kind, there are significant personal benefits, it increases our wellbeing and our own feelings of happiness, being kind can reduce the hormones in our brains associated with stress. It also ‘infects’ others with kindness too, as we role model positive behaviours.
Whilst we all have the best of intentions to be kind, the reality is that life is busy with many competing demands, yet I don’t think that should prevent us from exploring thoughtfulness, challenging each other and asking how we can we consistently be kinder? Can we become more intentional in our acts of kindness? When we see acts of kindness by colleagues can we acknowledge them to demonstrate how much they are valued?
Another reflection is that kind people are kind to themselves, creating time for kindness to ourselves is important, so can we commit to this?
Perhaps we start small? Small gestures can mean a great deal to a person who’s having a difficult day, we can offer more focus to acting with good intentions, to see things from the other persons perspective, to put ourselves in their shoes. Reassuringly the reality is kindness isn’t about grand gestures, it’s about thinking of others in often small ways and taking action.
I liked Prof Tony Warne’s @warnetony blog last Sunday http://tonywarne.blogspot.com/2019/04/remarkable-people-black-hole-and.html he shared he was interviewing consultants and asked them for an example of when they were kind, the results were lovely to read.
Imagine if we asked ourselves at the end of each day ‘how was I kind today?’