I know that it is a Government initiative to reduce the number of people with dementia who live in care homes and to support more people to stay at home but I am not convinced that staying in your own home when you have dementia is the best solution for many people.
There is a vulnerability to abuse from others in just the same way as there can be in a care home and possibly more so, as this can be behind closed doors and less detectable than in a group care setting. On top of that, there is a greater risk of loneliness and under-stimulation that can speed up the rate of the person’s cognitive decline. A person who lives alone may only see a domiciliary care worker for half-an-hour a day – with twenty three and-a-half hours left to fill.
But, when there are so many stories being told about poor care, no wonder that there is a stigma attached to going to live in a care home. When relatives see this as a last resort and speak of their feelings of guilt in “putting Mum or Dad into a Home” we can clearly see that there is work to be done to raise the standard for dementia care homes – improving the experience for those receiving care and the reputation of care providers.
My own Mum developed dementia with complex difficulties that meant she needed 24 hour support from specialists. Far from seeing this as a negative, I viewed it as an opportunity for Mum to be given all the help and companionship that she deserved – but this would depend on finding the right place with truly specialist practice and facilities.
Too often a Home uses the words “specialist dementia care” when what they really mean is that they ‘accept’ people with dementia there. But they do not have a service worthy of that name. If it is worthy then we would see that:
• Families are confident that the move into the home gives the person with dementia a better quality of life than if they remain at home.
• Care Home staff are confident in their specialist skills and knowledge that enable them to support people to live well with dementia
• Care Home teams are proud of their specialist dementia care service and design features that enable rather than disable individuals who live there.
I used all my experience to seek out the best place for Mum that would meet her wishes and her needs. It was not easy though and it made me realise how difficult it must be for other relatives who don’t have my background of 30 years working with people with dementia. So I have created the Dementia Champions web site which provides a free resource that aims to improve the experience for those receiving care and the reputation of care home providers with guidance for professionals and families who support those living with dementia.
The Dementia Champions website assists families to choose a dementia care home, with an assessment checklist for identifying what specialist dementia care should look like in the building, the people and their management systems with clear and simple guidance about what to look for and advice to people with dementia and their families on the questions to ask and the answers they should expect.
It also helps professional carers to become dementia specialists by identifying their strengths and weaknesses and directing them to resources to help achieve their goals. Using the checklist will support good care homes to say “we do this – we are specialists in dementia care and support”.
The comprehensive checklist includes 26 factors covering everything from the colours used in the building, to the staff knowledge and attitudes, in a printable format so the family can record their findings for each home they visit.
The resource has been endorsed by Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of ECCA who says “ the Dementia Champions website is an essential resource for anyone who is looking for a care service”.
For further information visit http://www.dementia-champions.org
Jackie Pool is an Occupational Therapist specialising in dementia care and is the founder of Jackie Pool Associates Ltd, one of the UK’s leading specialists in dementia care knowledge and skills development.
T: 0844 826 3101