Kathryn Farmer, CEO of Borough Care Ltd, talks about Dementia United and making Greater Manchester the best place in the world for dementia care:
Dementia is one of the greatest health challenges facing our society today, a fact that has meant it has finally made it to the top of the political agenda. In Greater Manchester alone there are currently over 30,000 people living with dementia and with an ageing population and rising diagnosis, this number shows no sign of slowing.
Here in Stockport, Greater Manchester, Borough Care Ltd has over twenty years’ experience in supporting people living with dementia. Working in partnership with local specialist services and national organisations has helped us to make sure that the ‘lived experience’ is the best that it can be.
However, advocating this team approach and instigating effective long-term change is no mean feat and so we jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Dementia United in Greater Manchester; a group initiative established as part of the Devolution agenda and its commitment to more co-ordinated approach to health and social care provision.
Its aim is to build on the existing strengths in Greater Manchester to address the need for improvements in diagnosis, hospital care and creating dementia-friendly environments. Using the local decision-making power provided with Devolution and working alongside some of Manchester’s greatest academic assets, including the University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia and Manchester Metropolitan University, Dementia United is perfectly positioned to become a platform for effecting real change.
For our part, we know that staff working in care homes have some of the greatest expertise. Their hands-on experience and unquestionable passion in supporting people living with dementia, gives an unparalleled insight into the day-to-day struggles and rewards that even small wins can foster when helping a person cope with such frustrating and upsetting symptoms. It will be my role, as an independent social care provider, to make sure these insights are shared and heard by the wider healthcare community.
At a recent Dementia United roundtable, I was also motivated by the opportunity this partnership project presents for us to learn and benefit too. Not only does it give us a voice to influence dementia services in the future, but allows us to join forces, learn from one another and share best practice that can shape things that are happening now.
For example, over the next 4-5 years, £20 million is being invested by Stockport Council in to renovating and rebuilding our care homes, a project we call Vision 2020. Being part of Dementia United means that we have access to people and networks we may not have otherwise had, and as such, the learnings and best practice we take away will help us as we start to future proof our homes and create dementia friendly environments that are better suited to meeting the changing and more complex care needs of our residents. Our vision is to be at the heart of dementia-friendly communities, recognised in Stockport and beyond as being leaders of quality and excellence, a vision mirrored in the aims of Dementia United.
It’s still early days for the Dementia United initiative and partnership working isn’t always easy. It needs strong leadership for direction and decision-making and numerous voices to effect policy changes and implement more efficient processes. And, perhaps more importantly, it needs the involvement of families to ensure that people living with dementia and their carers are heard, understood and are more connected and supported, with each other, their local communities and society as a whole.
But, there is no doubt in my mind that improving the lives of those living with dementia can only be achieved with integrated working. By bringing people and networks together to share knowledge and champion change, can we reach a collective goal to improving quality of life. I hope very much that all those involved with Dementia United will rise to this challenge and make Greater Manchester a city region that can transform dementia care, support and research.