Award-winning dementia design champion, Tracy Paine, who is the operations director at care provider, Belong, has travelled across the globe investigating housing and care facilities for older people living with dementia, in a bid to bring the best of international practice and design back to the UK.
Tracy travelled to Australia and the USA for five weeks, where she had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s leading housing and care providers. Her travels were funded by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Travelling Fellowship. Each year, WCMT awards over 100 Travelling Fellowships, providing UK citizens with the opportunity to investigate inspiring practice overseas in a wide range of fields. In 2016, Tracy was one of only 150 people to be granted a Fellowship out of nearly 1,000 applicants.
Tracy’s first stop was Sydney, Australia, where she was a member of the panel at Hammond Care’s world-renowned International Dementia Conference. She later visited care facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Tasmania and Melbourne before continuing her research in San Francisco and New York in the USA, where she was able to observe and contrast the way that care facilities in a more urban, built up environment approached dementia care and building design.
“Belong is a leading provider in the field of dementia care in England, but with the ever-changing needs and expectations of older people it is crucial for us to keep evaluating and innovating the services and nature of care and support that we provide in and from our villages,” said Tracy. “I set out with the intention of seeing how some of the world’s leading providers approached the built environment and models of care provided to explore if any of their practices could be beneficially incorporated into Belong and other similar organisations in the UK.”
The household model of care adopted by Belong was originally inspired by a similar design in place in Australia, and Tracy was curious as to whether advances in technology and understanding since its creation had had any influence on this model.
“The smaller relationship-centred approach was apparent in Australia, whereas many American care facilities are still more traditional in comparison, with less of an emphasis on creating a community, village-like atmosphere,” Tracy continued. “However, different does not mean wrong, and this is evidenced by the fact that the same ultimate goal was the focus everywhere I went: to support people to live a life they choose with dignity and respect. Globally, we face the same demographic challenges; an ageing population and finite funding with which to provide excellent care and support.”
Now back in the UK, Tracy has the opportunity to reflect on her experiences and explore how the lessons learned might influence the future of Belong, as well as the service currently provided. These findings will be published in a report for the Winston Churchill Fellowship and for future national presentations where Tracy has been invited to speak.
Tracy added: “I made some wonderful connections, visited some fantastic places and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to observe and learn from the practices adopted by some of the world leaders in care. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that the Fellowship has given to me.
“While I learned a lot, the trip also reinforced my conviction that Belong truly is a world-class care provider that we can be immensely proud of. Many of the facilities I visited were fantastic, however our efforts to create a ‘home for life’ for our customers is what makes us special, and I feel assured that our approach to care is amongst the best in the world.”