Purpose of the individual sessions
It would be simplistic to assume that groupwork alone is sufficient to meet the complex individual needs of older people. The group cannot address all of the needs and concerns of individual members so it is recommended that some time is set aside each month (about one-and-a-half hours) for the same designated facilitator to meet with each group member in order to:
Arranging individual sessions
Individual sessions usually take place within the person’s own home at a time that is mutually convenient. They should last between one and one-and-a-half hours, although timing is flexible. It is essential that the facilitator makes links between the general themes explored within the group and the specific issues raised by the person.
The individual sessions are about helping the person to facilitate change. The locus of control should always remain with the older person. Family dynamics and the way that many organisations offer support to older people can mean that individuals are frequently forced to adopt a passive or dependent role. Individual sessions should give the person the opportunity to step outside their usual position and enter into a relationship of mutual regard and trust.
What to expect
The challenge of effective working during individual sessions should not be underestimated. The older person may face huge daily challenges and be living in a difficult situation where there are no obvious solutions. However, this should be ameliorated by the knowledge that the person has a lifetime of experience, probably possesses great resilience and strength, and has possibly coped with the situation on their own for a number of years. The role of the facilitator is to help the person to focus, rediscover strengths and find alternative solutions that lie within themself.
Working with older people in this way inevitably leads to change that can be viewed within many families as a threat to the status quo. As a consequence there may be instances when the person makes an informed decision not to adopt an idea because the perceived risk that this poses to a valued relationship is too great. It is important to remember that, at all times, the degree to which ideas are adopted and developed ultimately lies with the person. Given the complexity of these individual interactions it is particularly important to establish clear goals and boundaries from the outset.