When reviewing what you know about the service user (either from the service user themselves, their family or other staff) it can be helpful to think about what you have in common that could be used to open a discussion with them, and to help build trust through familiarity and similarity. This could be anything from a shared hobby, to coming from the same geographical area.
This is not necessarily something as simple as possessing sharing shared characteristics. For example, not all men would necessarily find trust easier to come by with other men. Trust hinges upon complex factors, rooted in an individual’s history, and the research found that there is ‘trial-and-error’ in how support workers try to find some common ground. Knowing about the person’s history and trying to find a congruence between who the service user is as a person and the carer is key. Family carers suggested throughout this research that they may be able to help decision making around matching appropriate carers to the older person.
Other methods for identifying common ground included being able to pick up clues from the environment e.g. if you look at their garden, does it look like they enjoy(ed) gardening, or as in the example below, do they have a pet?
“I do like dogs and cats and pets, and things like that. So I do ask them if they have a cat, so it might be about a cat, they might have pictures up or something or lots of plants in the house or a very colourful décor. You have to sort of try and look around, without being prejudiced and judging, you have to be really careful. They might have like a cooking programme but that doesn’t mean I start saying I like cooking, you know, it might be coincidence that they were turning it off or switching the channel that has been on.
But I think saying a bit about them, makes them a bit human.”
Alternatively, if someone is very quiet, you could try telling them a little about yourself (maintaining appropriate boundaries and not being over-personal). For example:
“… if you start making a bubbly conversation, how was your day today, …you know, how did you spend your week, I’ve been to the local shopping centre. I give them my examples so, you know, they feel that trust, I’m telling them about me, that I love going to those shops, I love being around people, people walking, doing shopping. And they say, oh really, yeah, I used to do that or I don’t do that anymore.”
Where you struggle to find common ground with the service user and don’t seem to be making any progress in gaining their trust, our study participants suggested that it may be worth reviewing this with the team to see if someone else might have more success. Other team members may have a different style, or else have something else in common that might be a more natural match to the service user.