The nine-month trial was carried out in nine specialist dementia care homes and a 24/7 day centre in Surrey. Behaviours including mood, engagement, levels of interaction with other residents and staff, mobility and sleeping patterns were measured before and after the pilot, and the well-being of residents was found to have improved by 42 per cent. Now the next stage of the scheme is to introduce it in all of Care UK residential homes throughout north-west England.
During the ‘experiential’ training, staff were given direct experience of the dramatic effect that dementia and frailty can have on the senses; special glasses blurred their vision, headphones delivered white noise and gloves restricted the movement of fingers. Trainees found themselves being fed food that they could not see, drinking tea from plastic training beakers, and being asked several questions in quick succession without enough time to think of replies.
Karen Morrison, who led the pilot, will be presenting the findings at the Dementia Congress and helping other carers to reduce stress and increase well-being for people with dementia. She said:“The results show that, with the right care and environment, we can make life more fulfilling for residents and their carers. We have given staff a unique insight into how people with dementia experience the world and how they communicate their needs. We have also given them the skills and confidence to respond to those needs.”
Changes to the environment included photographic signage to show what was behind doors, which increased residents’ confidence and independence. Retro-style fittings were used which were popular, comforting and memory-evoking, and fireplaces and smaller dining rooms increased the homely feel.
Trainers have received many emails from staff giving examples of ways that the training has given them a better understanding of residents’ requests, including reasons why people with dementia may be unable to see things clearly, or changes in the way they use language.
Karen said: “The results are even more remarkable when you realise these were services that were already rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ by the Care Quality Commission and we have still managed to increase, by nearly half, the well-being of well-cared-for residents with dementia.”
Carole Wardle, Care UK’s manager at Station House in Crewe, who has won numerous awards for promoting excellence and dignity in care, is looking forward to seeing the dementia policy rolled out more widely across Care UK’s services. She said: “We are all very excited about receiving the training. By giving carers such a clear insight into how their residents see the world, lots of things become clearer for the carer.
“Because they can understand the person’s needs and preferences, it means they can go even further in providing a genuinely person-centred care package in a happy and relaxed environment.”