Dementia is a progressive condition caused by diseases of the brain, presenting specific symptoms such as: memory loss, difficulty concentrating, difficulty with language and mood swings. It is estimated that 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK right now, with this number projected to increase to 1 million by 2025. Yet, some still question the level of care these people receive for such a complex condition.

In May 2018, the Alzheimer’s Society released a report – Dementia: the true cost – and the effects that care has on those living with dementia and their families. Alzheimer’s Society’s findings showed that 1 in 3 homecare workers do not receive dementia training, with 49% of UK adults agreeing that people with dementia experience worse care and support than those with long-term diseases, such as cancer. These stats highlight a major issue in the UK for the care sector – we are now so advanced in our technologies and research, therefore a lack in dementia training shouldn’t exist! In April of this year, a study from Cardiff University of ‘5 hospitals…found wards suffered from ‘dehumanisation’, staff burnout and a lack of training in dementia’ (BBC, 2018).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have a set of fundamental standards that all care homes are expected to demonstrate, one of which is ‘person-centered care’. CQC expect to see tailored care plans for each individual, encompassing all their needs. It is essential that a person-centered approach is adopted in all care settings, due to the symptoms of dementia manifesting differently patient to patient. Ultimately, this demonstrates the requirement for accredited and comprehensive training in dementia care.

It is likely that we all know someone who is living with dementia. Ask yourself, did they receive high quality care? Were they given the care and attention their needs required? Staff not having the right skill set to provide quality dementia care is such a barrier to those who really deserve a high standard of personalised care. The BBC stated, following a study and report, that ‘patients with dementia had often been restricted to bed by rails or tucking sheets in tightly, against best practice’ – this is a prime example of a lack in high-quality dementia training. If nurses and carers were fully supported and given the learning tools to understand how to care for someone living with dementia, these problems would almost cease to exist.

The CQC produced a report – ‘Cracks in the pathway’ – back in 2017, which was a review of the care that people living with dementia received as they moved between care homes and acute hospitals. This report included 129 care homes and 20 hospitals across England and Wales, and in their findings, the CQC found in 27% of care homes that staff had poor understanding and knowledge of dementia care. With our roots in eLearning provision, we know how much an online-based training course for dementia costs – less than £5! We now exist in a world where the number of people living with dementia is on the rise, yet less and less people are aware of the condition (both in and out of a care setting!), so why is there so little investment in this vital training?

Care Industry News reported in May 2018 about why specialist care training is important, and highlighted that “a skilled labour force can work wonders with limited resources”. Dementia training should be an essential part of training for all care professionals, because it provides carers with the knowledge, understanding and the ability to manage the effects of the condition, and prepares them for how this might affect the patient and their loved ones.

Four Seasons Health Care joined the Dementia Action Alliance back in 2010, which was a new coalition of public, private and charitable organisations that aimed to improve dementia care and reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs. The Guardian (2010) said that “a report last year found that just 1 in 5 dementia patients benefit from the tranquilisers prescribed…this chemical cosh was responsible for an additional 1800 deaths a year”. In an attempt to provide an example of best practice, Four Seasons Health Care formed the ‘Pearl Project’, which aims to achieve a cultural shift in care homes to ensure best practice. This experimental training project placed the carers in the shoes of those with dementia. Staff were treated like they were dementia patients, where ‘those taking part were ignored, fake pills were forced down their throat without consent…and sometimes a wet pad was placed between their legs to give a sense of what it was like to be incontinent’. The programme was ‘designed to give staff a sense of empathy with their residents…’ and to stop unnecessary medication being given to patients. The project was a success – the results were fantastic, in particular there was a 54% drop in the use of antipsychotic drugs during the pilot alone.

Dementia is not like other conditions, it has a large number of symptoms associated with it and unless a carer has completed specialist training, it’s likely they will not be in the best position to manage someone living with dementia effectively. Therefore, by becoming a specialist in dementia care, professionals in the health and social care industry will be able to deliver high quality, person-centered care. Furthermore, carers completing dementia training will ensure best practice in their roles, which, in turn, will maintain high quality care-giving leading to better patient outcomes.

Here are some Ako reflections for you to take away…

  • Is it important to be aware of dementia in your organisation? If yes, consider how much you and your colleagues currently know about dementia. Do you have a good enough understanding of the condition to be able to deliver high quality care to someone living with dementia?
  • What is the training for dementia like in your organisation? Is the training adequate, or do you think you could do more to raise awareness about dementia across your organisation?
  • If more can be done, why not start raising awareness by rolling out a dementia eLearning course. Or, encourage regular dementia awareness sessions during team meetings or staff events. By making this training applicable and essential to your organisation and your team roles, by investing in a training programme, you will ensure better outcomes for yourself, your patients and their loved ones.

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