This is Pt 2 in looking at what was highlighted on the BBC programme on Dementia Care Homes where Gerry Robinson investigates the wide disparity in quality of service being delivered to the elderly in the UK Gerry Robinson on Dementia #1/3.
How typical the findings of this programme are is unknown although it feels as though the Social Services have homes they recommend where the information isn’t graded. However its clear that older people are living longer and Residential Care Homes are on the increase. In Part 2 we’re going to look at what does work and why.
The propensity for older people to become invisible is something I’m already experiencing, in my fifties, and I can see how this is reflecting western societies breakdown of the extended family, where both adults (in a household) often work so when it comes to the elderly they have little choice once its officially declared that a person is no longer fit to live alone. But are the practicalities over-riding the uber-importance of our elderly population’s emotional and psychological well-being?
Dementia in the elderly
Although the home at Summer Vale in Leicester is newly refurbished at a cost of half a million pounds, it battling an existing negative reputation, and running at half-capacity. Gerry’s impression was that things weren’t as they should be saying:
“It just feels like the last place on God’s earth you would want to be.”
Having exposed a variety of malpractice attitudes and behaviours at Summer Vale, the next part of the programme showed how running a care home can be done well when carried out by those with genuine concern for their residents. Let’s meet David and Anne.
Activities for dementia clients
David Sheard, a care consultant with a wealth of experience and Anne Fretwell run Merevale House, a Residential Care Home in Warwickshire, that is in marked contrast. Together they are challenged to work with the staff at Summer Vale and show them how it can be done another way by adopting a better attitude.
David and Anne are aware of the importance of meeting the psychological needs of their Dementia clients, by giving them suitable tasks that enable residents to feel useful and involved, as we see in a range of practical and occupational therapy types of activity.
One such example shows them setting the tables for dinner and at mealtimes staff and residents eat together so everyone is engaged in conversation, sharing their day. It means that residents are ‘heard’ (in every which-way) instead of experiencing an invisibility that most often results with mental conditions, as many people feel uncomfortable and are ill-equipped in dealing with it. Most importantly it allows residents to feel included in their own life.
David is challenged to retrain the staff at Summer Vale to enable a more client-centred approach and it has an instant impact not only on the staff especially the conscientious ones.
The residents display a marked improvement and the best example shown is a lady prone to aggressive outbursts of swearing whenever staff approach her, but she becomes calmer and more engaged when dealt with in a civil manner instead of being ‘processed’. By processed I mean all the attendant practicalities for survival.
Ken, although laid out horizontally, is now given a simple painting task and as a former paint-sprayer he embraces the challenge with familiarity and pride.
Anne Fretwell says:
“Even if we give a man a lace-up boot to tie, he is occupied and welcomes the engagement. The object is not the task, of course, but in raising self-worth.”
In Pt 3 we shall look at the outcome for Summer Vale and the available services and Residential Care Home standards we adhere to in the UK!
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Until next time…
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