Privileged glimpses 5: Don’t expect perfection.

This series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.


Don’t expect your service user to perform perfectly. You don’t so why should they?

As we saw in the last entry we all make mistakes and it takes time to learn a new skill. But that’s only half the story. Even with practice people rarely achieve perfection. It’s true that we might perform faultlessly some of the time but even the best of us gets things wrong on occasion. For most of us it’s a very regular occurrence no matter how much we’ve practiced. We all have ‘off days’ and we all make mistakes.

“Nobody’s perfect” as the saying goes.

But whilst it’s easy to excuse ourselves for the regular little errors that make up every day of our lives many workers in health and social care have difficulty extending the same understanding and forgiveness to service users. The next time you go into work take a random batch of care or support case files and look at the care plans inside. See how many of them have been discontinued as ‘unattainable’ after only one or two attempts. Notice also how many have stated goals set far too low because of an assumption that since the service user didn’t get it right every time they cannot be expected to attain meaningful goals.

Then apply the same logic to your own life.

Would you find your own support plans discontinued if the same stringent demands were applied to your….

  • Sobriety
  • Spending and budget management
  • Anger management
  • Compliance with medication regimes as ‘self-administrator of meds’
  • Smoking cessation (how many times did the ex smokers you know try and fail to stop before they succeeded?)

The fact that you screw up from time to time doesn’t make you a failure. It merely makes you human and fallible. We all make mistakes but that doesn’t mean we are incapable of doing well too.

Remember that there is no us and them. If we allow ourselves to be less than perfect then we must also allow the same freedom to be fallible for our service users.

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