Dementia Centred

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By Pauline Cameron

August 15th, 2017

Moving with the times

The DSDC’s Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Programme continues to evolve in order to meet the challenges of culture change in health and social care.

The Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), as part of the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Stirling, have recognised for a long time that health and social care staff want to improve support for people with dementia. Most staff know that it is possible for people to experience good health and wellbeing but often lack the knowledge, skills and tools which would help them to improve their practice. It is essential that they are able to understand what good practice in dementia care looks like and the positive impact that it can have on the experience of a person.

First piloted in 2007, the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Programme has been designed, written and developed to answer the learning needs of all staff who work in dementia care. The programme is delivered across the United Kingdom and internationally with external trade body and professional body recognition. Learning is underpinned by a person centred approach to care, focussing on the needs of the individual. It is structured to help care staff think about how they respond to people affected by dementia, including the person’s family and friends.

During the programme staff receive the support of a group facilitator who will arrange regular group meetings to discuss the topics covered in the programme materials. Between meetings learners are asked to reflect on the answers to exercises that relate to their practice and what they have learned.

Facilitators are taught by the DSDC learning and development team.There are five editions of the programme designed to be relevant and meaningful to staff in different areas of practice: Healthcare, Care Homes, Domiciliary Care, Emergency Care and Housing Support.

The programme is accredited by the Royal College of Nursing and recognised by the Chartered Institute of Housing and, in England, by Skills for Care.

The key aims of the programme are to improve the experience of care for people with dementia and their families, by increasing the knowledge and skills of all staff. The self-study model encourages reflection on how to provide the best care for people with dementia in the learners own area of practice. The programme aims to develop new knowledge and confidence in staff so that they feel more valued as members of the care team.

On completion of study staff are able to:

  • Exhibit a greater understanding of dementia and its impact on the individual.
  • Engage in a reflective evaluation of caring interventions and change their practice accordingly.
  • Implement a person-centred approach to care.
  • Demonstrate evidence-based caring interventions.
  • Demonstrate a more expansive use of communication skills when interacting with and understanding the needs of people with dementia.
  • Recognise the role of the carer/family, their needs and possible support networks.

The success of the initiative over the years has not been easily achieved. A major challenge has been to convince managers that culture change is possible and to show them how the programme, underpinned by its ethos of reflective practice, works. The experience of the DSDC’s learning and development team as health and social care practitioners has proved key to achieving this because they understand the challenges that staff and managers face every day.

Evidence shows that training alone is insufficient. For knowledge to be useful practitioners must promote reflection in order to embed learning into practice. The programme involves protected time for periods of group reflection so release of staff from duties to attend group meetings can be a further constraint. The DSDC recognises that the programme needs to be flexible and that organisations need support to adopt a "can do" attitude and to allow staff to try out their ideas before implementing the changes arising from reflective activity.

The programme achieves its fundamental purpose of improving the person's experience of dementia by changing the values, attitudes and beliefs which are held by staff who have previously not had opportunities for effective learning in their area of practice. It is effective even where staff, who have worked in health and social care for many years, have deeply held views about people with dementia.

" I have learned most of all to reflect on what I do within the ward as I realise that my actions and those of other staff can have a negative or positive impact on patients" (A healthcare support worker).

The learning programme uses workbooks which cover every aspect of psychological and clinical care. This ensures that staff develop clear understanding of person centred principles and an approach which promotes health and wellbeing for people with dementia and their families. Health outcomes are improved when staff are able to see the person rather than just the dementia.

Evaluation has evidenced positive outcomes in terms of improved quality of care. Improvement is underpinned by confidence in practice, both confidence in staff by managers and by health and social care support staff in their practice with people with dementia. There is evidence of positive outcomes in the management of risk, pain and medication.

The learning programme continues to evolve and has been regularly updated over the years. The DSDC is continuously exploring ways forward, taking into account present day challenges in the delivery of high quality health and social care. We are proud to announce the latest phase of development will be available from this autumn.

From September 2017 “Facilitating the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Programme", formerly our facilitator training course, will be offered as a University module with 20 SCQF credits at level 8. This recognises the hard work and commitment involved in the role of the facilitator which is key to the successful development of staff learners. Through the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning process it will provide a means of access to higher levels of attainment and specialisation via further undergraduate and postgraduate study.

The achievement of best practice in the care and support of people with dementia and their families is now a global priority. We need to recognise, encourage and nurture the potential that we know exists in all care settings through high quality education.

Through partnerships you or your organisation may qualify for part or full funding to cover the training fees. DSDC can tell you about any opportunities available.

For more information, and to register your interest, please contact Pauline at or 01786 467482. 

Pauline Cameron
DSDC Learning & Development Officer

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Categories: Best Practice