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Abstract

This article examines wise social care practices in two elder care settings in Ireland, a day centre in Dublin and a nursing home in the West of Ireland. Based on interviews with staff and service-users as well as close observations of interactions in each setting, the paper describes social care practices which have empowering and enabling effects. These practices are explored in the light of understandings of practical wisdom and in the context of connectedness to surrounding communities. The article describes multi-dimensional and authentic relationships which extend beyond the centres themselves and represent a blend of affective, cognitive and ethical capacities of those in charge that elicit positive responsiveness in others. The humane practices we report on here are less observable and translatable into ‘best’ practice than HIQA regulatory standards. Yet, in order to achieve person-centred care, practices that are more strictly measurable should not be the only criteria of ‘excellence’ in care settings. Inspections should also focus on the quality of the relationships that can be termed ‘wise’ practice; these inspections themselves need to be carried out wisely.

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