“We’re not allowed to hug people here”

Sitting in the training room after a vibrant community event, one member of staff reflected that a highlight of the afternoon had been when she had offered a resident a hug, inspired by a love scene in the film we were recreating. The resident looked at her and said, “Thank you. I really needed that today.”.

Other members of staff joined in, it had felt good to have the opportunity to offer their residents a hug. A moment of comfort, calm, acknowledgement and connection. One staff member had said he felt proud being able to offer that feeling to someone. Another member of staff interjected. “But we’re not allowed to hug people here”.

Some staff agreed that hugging wasn’t permitted, but that they felt torn between the rules and what they felt residents need.  We were fortunate to have someone from Head Office in the group.

“So what’s this policy?”, we asked him.

“I have no idea, it’s not from management. You saw me, I hugged people today too.”

A myth. From where, unclear. Spread through word of mouth, glances of disapproval. The impact: residents missing out on the opportunity of human connection, comfort and love.

We can so often make assumptions about what we can and cannot do. By accepting them unquestioningly we risk limiting people’s lived experience in care homes. Through the creative provocation of the film shoot we provided space for a discussion about contact. People discussed how they felt and were able to challenge the myth, unlocking huge potential for working with residents. What other myths are out there in your work place?

Are you curious?