Our Head of Dementia invited to share pioneering techniques with university students

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Carers and nurses who are furthering their education through a Masters level lecture series at University Campus Suffolk (UCS) learnt about the dramatic effect that dementia and frailty can have on the senses at an unusual style lecture this week. Maizie Mears-Owen, Head of Dementia for Care UK and one of the UK’s leading dementia care experts, gave the mature students direct experience of what it feels like and what the challenges are for an older person with dementia.

During the activity filled lecture they were invited to wear special glasses to blur their vision and headphones that delivered white noise, as well as gloves which restricted finger movement. They then tried eating food and decorating biscuits that they couldn’t see, drinking from plastic training cups and other tasks while being asked questions in quick succession and without time to think of replies.

Maizie Mears-Owen, Head of Dementia for Care UK, who uses her forward-thinking training techniques at Care UK, says: “This training gives a direct experience of the dramatic effect that dementia and frailty can have on the senses.”

She adds: “After the experiences I ask participants how they feel, and then ask them how someone with dementia would feel in an equally strange and confusing situation. Their frustration is exactly how the person with dementia may react if something happens to them that they don’t understand or like. If this begins, and carers are not empathetic, the therapeutic relationship breaks down.”

Angela Morris, District Nurse, for Holbrook and Shotley who took part in the lecture at UCS, said: “I was so apprehensive but it was a brilliant session and the ideal way to teach carers.”

She added: “I was angry and frustrated when I first put on the gloves and glasses but it really showed all of us how a patient with dementia feels.”

The dementia training developed by Maizie Mears-Owen has been nominated for several awards. It is delivered to Care UK employees who work in the independent care provider’s nursing homes UK-wide and who deliver day care services. In June this year Care UK appointed a team of three specialist dementia trainers to help roll-out the programme, overseen by Maizie Mears-Owen.

Maizie Mears-Owen adds: “Care UK puts a great deal of emphasis on giving its employees the skills and expertise they need in areas like dementia where we have become specialists. I believe as a society we need to build a far greater understanding of dementia and I was delighted to be asked to lecture to the mature students who are furthering their knowledge. I hope they will take a deeper understanding back to their work environments.” 

Anne Johnston, Head of Division of Health within the School of Science, Technology and Health at UCS, says: “This is a fabulous opportunity to work in partnership with Care UK as we begin to explore ways for health and social care professionals to develop their knowledge and skills to support individuals and their families facing the day to day challenges which dementia can present.”

The ‘Dementia Care’ module is delivered at Levels 5, 6 and 7, and is suitable for people working in health and social care who have experience of working with people with a dementia. The course explores a number of aspects of working with people with dementia and their families, taking a bio-psycho-social perspective on the condition, with a strong emphasis on person-centred care.

Students are encouraged to look critically at research into dementia care practice and to reflect upon the relevance of up-to-date theory on their day to day approaches to working with individuals experiencing living with dementia. The module will be delivered again from January 2013, at Levels 5 and 6.  University Campus Suffolk is also developing further modules for those working with people with dementia, including an online course in ‘Dementia Care Practice’ and one in ‘Leadership in Dementia Care’.  For information about any of these modules, please contact the course leader, Sarah Housden, by e-mailing s.housden@ucs.ac.uk

There are around 9,000 people in Suffolk living with dementia and an estimated 800,000 throughout the country and more health and social care workers are needed with the specialist skills to care for people with the condition.

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