‘Supported Self-care’ is the process of assisting people to manage their own care in a way that helps to improve their quality and experience of life. It involves health and care professionals working in partnership with individuals to help them to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they need to be more actively involved in maintaining their own health and wellbeing.

There are three essential ingredients for successful supported self-care:

  1. Engaged, informed individuals and carers, with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make their own decisions and to take actions to achieve their personal goals. In order to support this we need to actively seek the individual’s views, provide them with information and offer them time for reflection and discussion;
  2. Health and care professionals who recognise the central role of the individual in his or her own care and are committed to partnership working. These professionals must have the skills, expertise and confidence to support people not only in making decisions, setting goals and overcoming barriers towards achieving these goals, but also in developing the knowledge and skills to do so;
  3. Care systems and services that are organised in ways that enable individuals, carers and professionals to work together and allow self-care support to be part of routine practice.

Supporting self-care therefore involves supporting people to be motivated and confident to do more for themselves and to take responsibility for their own care and wellbeing. It involves:

  • Empowerment: recipients of care are empowered to lead their own care. Empowerment, enabled by information, allows the individual and their carers to assess and properly manage risk, and to shape the services they need to support them in the most effective way;
  • Capability: the development of self-care skills, including the use of appropriate assistive technology and equipment to support those skills;
  • Motivation: this is most effectively developed through an understanding of the key emotional,  behavioural and relationship factors in the individual’s life. Improving motivation creates the positive attitude and behaviour, which can enable self-care.

Support for self-care can be informal and ad hoc, or much more structured. It can be general or specific to particular long-term conditions, and it can take place in a variety of settings.

In every case support for self-care relies upon excellent communication and the development of strong person-centred partnerships for care that are based upon trust, honesty and respect.