‘A listening ear and invaluable support at the time of greatest need’. Care home professionals have welcomed a new service for people living with dementia in care homes as enquiries to Dementia Support UK: Connect, Consult demonstrate that lockdown measures are having a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia, their carers and loved ones. Urgent support is needed.
Funded by Innovate UK, and provided by HammondCare, this free service provides immediate support with a 24/7 online enquiry and referral system for relatives, carers and health professionals. It offers an opportunity to access extra support and expert guidance to help carers cope with behaviours and symptoms which worsened during the pandemic.
Ed Russell, Deputy Chief Executive, WCS Care, a specialist care provider, said: “At a time of increased pressure for care homes, carers and residents have felt the impact of a pause on family visits to the homes. And while we have alternative ways to ensure loved ones stay in touch, such as pre-arranged window visits, video calls and compassionate garden visits, for people with dementia the change in routine can cause anxiety and stress.
“Having additional guidance and support available at the end of the phone through Dementia Support UK – which complements the tools we already provide carers to support residents – gives our teams valuable acknowledgement of the work they’re already doing, while providing useful insight and new approaches to try.
“Our teams have warmly welcomed this virtual pair of helping hands and feedback so far has been unanimously positive.”
The service works in partnership with care home staff. Many care homes have specialist staff and they are taking the opportunity to have a detailed peer-to-peer discussion and examine new approaches to support their residents. The feedback so far is that care home professionals appreciate the speed of response and quality of the advice provided.
The consultants on the end of the phone from Dementia Support UK are collaborating with care home teams to provide personal, non-pharmacological support telephone consultations and follow up video conferencing. The service is tailored to each care home provider and level of behaviour. Enquiries are encouraged and nothing is considered too trivial.
Executive Director of the National Care Forum, Vic Rayner, said: While many care homes have specialist staff, they are taking the opportunity to have a detailed peer-to-peer discussion and examine new approaches to support their residents. The consultants on the end of the phone from Dementia Support UK are working with care home teams to provide personal and tailored, non-pharmacological support telephone consultations and follow up video conferencing.
David Moore, Dementia Lead for Methodist Homes Association commented: “COVID-19 has made it an extremely difficult time for health and social care and in particular for those living with dementia, their families and the care staff who support them. Because of this the need for Dementia Support UK has never been more important. Their valuable knowledge, guidance and person-centred approach will enhance the lives of many people with dementia living in care homes across the country.”
Louise Spann, home manager of WCS Care’s Four Ways care home, said: “One of our resident’s lives with dementia and also has cancer. The combination of this experience of pain and dementia means that she can become upset with staff and other residents without warning which has become worse during the pandemic. We spoke to Dementia Support UK and explored the resident’s current care arrangements and we agreed that these were responsive to her needs but we also discussed new approaches to try around personal care and pain relief. There has already been an improvement. I’d definitely use the service again. It was really efficient and it’s always beneficial to get a new perspective and fresh input.”
Associate Professor Colm Cunningham, Director of Dementia Centre, HammondCare said: “The global pandemic has really challenged care homes supporting people living with dementia because of the limitations on activities and engagement opportunities. Enquiries to the service, in its first weeks of launch, indicate that residents have been affected by the lack of family visits and the change of routine in their care setting. Social distancing has changed their lives and caused an increase in stress, confusion and behaviour issues. Family members have found it difficult to cope too, especially as they see the changes on video calls but feel powerless to help.
“As we move into an era of social distancing the extra support will help staff, solve problems and give them confidence. Our consultants are there to offer advice and support and share their extensive knowledge of dementia-related behaviours. We are a listening ear and additional support to help them offer the best care.”
Staff from care homes, relatives, GPs and other social and health care professionals who are working with a resident living with dementia and would like to access further help and support can access Dementia Support UK: Connect, Consult by making an enquiry online 24/7 at https://dementiasupportuk.org/