Care provider and charity, The Fremantle Trust, is shining a light on Dementia Awareness Week by reflecting on the importance of investment in continuous skills development to meet the needs of residents living with dementia.
According to Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia. It mainly affects people over the age of 65 and the likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly with age.
In 2015 the Trust’s dementia lead, Jill Conroy developed a new BTEC Level 2 Award in Dementia Awareness, which features in the Skills for Care Best Practice Guide. This has been rolled out across the organisation’s care homes and will also extend across its learning disability services, with an increasing number of team members being identified as course assessors.
Diana Cussans is assistant manager of Fremantle Court nursing home in Stoke Mandeville and has completed the course to become an assessor. She said: “I run one of the enhanced residential wings at the home and believe that we cannot have too much training in dementia – knowledge and experience are key, as is ‘seeing the person first’ and understanding how they view the world.”
Zlate Semanic is assistant manager at Icknield Court care home in Princes Risborough. She has completed the BTEC in Dementia Care and is looking to become an assessor. Communication is a key element of the training and is something Zlate feels is important when supporting people living with dementia. She explained: “Dementia not only has a profound impact on the individual, but on their families too. It’s very important to keep talking and looking at pictures of positive memories, places visited and experiences shared with others as a reminder of identity and an opportunity to reminisce.”
Reiterating the point about communication and expression, Jade Marshall-Kuca, a waking night team leader at Mulberry Court care home in Chalfont St Peter added: “Behaviour is communication, even when perceived as negative. The long-held view of the term ‘challenging behaviour’ was dashed to pieces in my mind as I realised that all behaviours are a form of expression, especially for those who have lost the ability to communicate in conventional ways.
“My entire attitude has shifted after completing the BTEC in Dementia Care. It’s helped me to realise that really knowing someone and understanding what makes them tick is the key to exceptional care as you then intuitively understand how you can do both small and large gestures to bring joy to someone’s day.”
Hazel Greenway is manager of specialist dementia care home Mulberry Court and sees the benefits of the emphasis on person-centred training in dementia care at The Fremantle Trust. She commented: “As a result of the care team’s understanding of dementia, they are able to be more hands on and experience the benefits this brings to the individual and family.
“They see the person and not the dementia, which is critical. As a manager it’s fantastic to see the ideas and the learning being put into practice from the team long after the award has been completed, as they remain wholly focused on finding the best and most effective ways of supporting residents living with dementia in our care.”