To mark World Alzheimer’s Month, Tony Thiru, CEO of leading care home management expert Fulcrum Care, offers advice on how to improve Alzheimer’s and dementia care in your care home.
There are currently 850,000 people in the UK aged 65 and over living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, meaning that the need for your care home to be able to deliver person-centred and activity-focused dementia care has never been greater. This World Alzheimer’s Month, we want to encourage as many care homes as possible to enhance their residents’ quality of life or, as Professor Tom Kitwood describes it, ‘maintain personhood’. Tony Thiru, of Fulcrum Care Limited explains why it’s a win-win for residents, their families and care homes.
The importance of caring for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia
Unfortunately, the number of people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s is on the rise, and is expected to double to 1.6 million by 2040; this means that care homes need to be equipped with the tools to support residents living with these conditions to enjoy the best possible quality of life. While a lot of care homes will have the physical environment needed for dementia care, such as colour-coded murals, we often see that the care for the behavioural and psychological side of dementia (BPSD) is misunderstood by many homes.
Improving Alzheimer’s and dementia care at your home
The best way to improve the quality of care you’re able to offer to your residents with dementia is through staff training; ultimately, there are many different levels of training for staff, and dementia care is vast, but we need to enable staff and carers to embrace dementia care. You should prepare your staff for BPSD within national guidelines; a lot of NICE guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) are aimed at clinicians, but there are some which are tailored around BPSD.
Around 90% of people living with dementia will have some sort of BPSD, which can include hallucination, physical or verbal aggression or walking with purpose (which many people refer to as wandering). We need to encourage carers to learn to walk in the world of the resident living with dementia, enabling them to perceive situations from the residents’ perspective, which will allow them to offer properly person-centred care.
Of course, part of this will involve staff visiting a classroom or going on a course, but to truly enhance the quality of life of someone with dementia, we need to look at how staff observe those with dementia. The insights gained from the staff’s observations should inform the structuring of relevant, activity-focused dementia care; even simple activities such as weeding or listening to music can help bring person-centred and creative care to a person with dementia, helping to improve their quality of life.
In making better use of tools, such as dementia care mapping, you should be able to see real improvements in the level of dementia care that you’re able to offer. The variables you’re tracking need to be measurable; for example, have you been able to reduce the use of anti-psychotics within your home? If so, then it’s clear that your efforts are working.
Promoting awareness within the wider community
Whilst we can do a lot of good for those living with dementia within our care homes, this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month we’re also calling for greater education about the condition within wider society. We need to encourage more forums that promote better understanding of dementia, enabling those without first-hand experience but who may encounter the disease in some other way, such as in their role as an employer, to have the knowledge needed to deal with the situation.
Better education within wider society is also important as, to provide person-centred dementia care, carers will often have to rely on information from family members to help utilise the memories that their loved one has left. Being made aware of the role that family members can play in improving their loved one’s quality of life will benefit all parties: the resident, their relatives and their carers.
In essence, we all need to start building our own life history and remembering even the little things matter to bring about person-centred care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.