Care home managers are being offered free support to help reduce staff sickness levels related to stress brought on by the complex demands of the UK’s growing number of dementia patients.
Fresh concerns surrounding the mental well-being of care home staff who look after dementia patients have been raised by Tracy Gough, a registered nurse, life coach, therapist and author from Stoke on Trent.
It follows the publication of her latest book ‘My Dementia Journey – one step at a time’ which addresses the day to day emotional and physical challenges experienced by caregivers looking after their loved ones at home.
The book has been written by Tracy, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the care sector, to provide practical advice to caregivers. However, she now feels there is an urgent need for this support to be extended to care home staff who are also dealing with similar difficulties on a daily basis.
According to statistics provided by Alzheimers Research UK, there are currently around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and around 311,730 of these are living in care homes https://www.dementiastatistics.org/statistics/care-services/.
Furthermore, the prevalence of dementia in care homes has risen from 56% in 2002 to 70% in 2013, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK and by 2040 the number of people in England and Wales living with dementia in need of palliative care is estimated to almost quadruple.
Tracy, who still works within a care home setting and also runs a counselling service for caregivers, said: “With more and more care home residents suffering with dementia there are widespread concerns about the impact of this situation on the well-being of care home staff.
“Many employees in the care sector are finding that the complex nature of dementia residents is regularly causing them to feel more stressed, anxious and exhausted.
“Often care staff will work 12 hour shifts and this can leave them both physically and mentally drained at the end of their working day.
“Daily stresses for staff can include receiving physical and verbal abuse; hearing constant shouting out and repetition; residents arguing and fighting with one another; challenges relating to malnutrition particularly when patients refuse to eat or drink; refusal of medication; problems relating to incontinence and end stage/terminal care.
“On top of this care home staff also have to support and advise relatives.
“It’s not surprising therefore that some employees will end up going off sick with stress and exhaustion related to the demands of their job. It’s often easier and pays just the same to work on a factory floor or in a shop.
“But if care homes in the UK are to continue to provide vital care to the growing number of dementia patients then staff need to feel supported by senior members of their team and this is why I’m trying to make a difference.”
Tracy has launched a new information guide called ‘The Wellbeing and Support Guide for Care Staff’ to provide care home managers with relevant tools to help them deliver additional support to staff.
The guide, which is being provided free of charge, contains detailed information on staff wellbeing, mindset, coping strategies, relaxation techniques and advice to managers on ways they can support staff.
Tracy said: “Safeguarding the mental wellbeing of care home staff is absolutely fundamental to maintaining the quality of care within care homes across the country.
“To do this staff need to be well managed, receive adequate and appropriate training, sufficient rest days and not exceed too many working hours per week. They should feel supported by their manager and colleagues, take regular breaks and management teams must ensure appropriate staffing levels to cope with the demands and dependencies of residents.
“There must also be scope to rotate staff regularly with residents that are very complex and challenging in behaviour.
“It’s also important that managers restrict the amount of hours staff do over long periods of time as this can cause exhaustion and burnout.”
Tracy, who set up her business ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ earlier this year to provide one to one support to caregivers with the aim of reducing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, hopes care home managers will take advantage of her free information guide.