Friday, 16 September 2011
An innovative strategy is helping to improve quality of life for dementia sufferers by focusing on individual needs and sharing experiences

Dementia is one of the most challenging issues society faces: in the UK, there are around 750,000 people with a form of the syndrome, and this figure is set to rise in the next 20 years. A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Society showed that two-thirds of people living in care homes have some form of dementia. Debra Keeling, deputy director of Care Operations at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), said: ‘We found that people with dementia, of varying types and stages, live throughout our care homes. Therefore, as an organisation, we needed to think about how we could adapt, improve and expand our services to meet the needs of the people who live in our homes, in a way that enhances their wellbeing and quality of life.’

As a result of the RMBI’s research on the type of care needed by the people using its services, a five-year strategy was approved by the board of trustees in 2009. The RMBI Care Strategy – currently being rolled out in a phased approach to its 17 care homes – focuses on person-centred care, and how quality of life can be improved for individuals using its services. New and improved care-planning documentation has been introduced. This focuses on the individual’s care needs and how this information could be used to infl uence the way care is delivered to ensure that it is meaningful to the individual. Relatives are also encouraged to be involved in the process throughout.

Many homes hold regular relative-support groups for families of people living with dementia that offer both emotional support and advice about all aspects of dementia, with an emphasis on sharing experiences. The RMBI Care Strategy is integral to the working of all departments within the organisation. Closer working relationships have been developed between departments, ensuring that the key goals of the strategy are met, and that any changes required within the care-home environment are implemented in a manner that is appropriate to the people living there. A comprehensive training programme to support staff has also been implemented. Through this investment in training and development, the RMBI aims to equip staff to review the care regime in their local care setting, in order for them to seek ways of removing barriers that hinder relationship-based care. On completion of the strategy, the RMBI will be able to deliver a more person-centred approach to its care provision throughout the organisation.

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