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Dementia Awareness Week – Sharing Experiences

As part of Dementia Awareness Week, Pauline Shaw, Director of Care & Service Development at The Royal Star & Garter Homes, explains sharing our experiences of dementia care benefits everyone involved and ultimately improves the lives of people living with dementia.


An enlightened expression goes that: “When you’ve met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia.”  (Professor Tom Kitwood)


This powerful statement reminds us that, as individuals, people living with dementia do so in their own unique way. The nature of person-centred care is to respond to the person’s individuality: to honour and respect them for who they are, where they are on their journey of dementia and to promote their sense of self and identity.


It is true to say that dementia care provision and the quality of care available is nearly as diverse as the people living with the condition and I question why this is the case. Inevitably different services and care models will provide care in different ways which is reasonable and appropriate and driven by a number of contextual factors such as location, service type, resources and expectations within the community. In an ideal world all such care is driven by ‘quality’ in whatever context.


The Royal Star & Garter Homes’ approach to dementia care is built on the solid foundations of Kitwood’s Person-Centred model which we have implemented in both the Solihull and Surbiton Homes and which will guide the care in our new High Wycombe Home, which is due to open in the Spring 2018. I am delighted to say that we have achieved national recognition in both Homes for our dementia care, which includes awards for Best Care Team, Best Relative Involvement and Best Interior Design in Dementia Care.  To support us in constantly moving forward and developing innovation and improvements, we have looked outwards and learnt from other providers. At the same time, we have shared openly with other organisations to communicate our model of care.


I believe that by sharing our experience with other providers is based on a two-way communication where ideas and creativity is shared which ultimately improves quality and the lived experience of the people who choose to live with us. We have recently welcomed a dementia care team from Finland, a team from Australia and from Singapore to our Homes, as well as many regional UK care providers. We welcome nursing students on placement and I often hear their feedback, along the lines of ‘I love it here, it is not what I was expecting of a care home.’ The care community is faced with the challenge of examples of poor and unacceptable practice in the media but it is right and proper that the public is aware of under-performing and dangerous services. Regrettably this is compounded by a negative stereotype of care homes which persists, despite the best and enduring efforts of so many quality providers endeavouring to change hearts and minds and eager for examples of the positively brilliant to shine through.


We receive feedback from relatives of residents living with dementia who are part of our ‘family’, who see, hear and tangibly feel the genuine love and care provided by our staff teams. Our staff are fulfilled in their roles because they are valued; all staff, no matter what role they are employed in, receive face-to-face quality dementia care training in a feelings-based philosophy of care provided by Dementia Care Matters. We are happy to share what we are achieving through our model of care, the environment in which it takes place and the benefits this and having a motivated, well-trained and supported staff bring to the day-to-day lives of residents. Each day should bring elements of joy, colour, happiness, warmth, love, occupation, laughter and a sense of belonging. Our Care Team express feelings of reciprocity: for all they give so freely each day, they receive back from residents in abundance.