With everything that has been happening in social care since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, it has been difficult to find the head space to see beyond the now. But we are assured that there will be a beyond. In that beyond we will reflect, and learn and move forward. The reality is that our services will be different as we mourn the loss of loved service users, and sometimes our dedicated staff as well. These are the moments when leading older peoples services particularly requires strength, resilience and compassion, are we up to the task?
I once heard a workforce trainer describe it as “going to the sweetie jar too many times”. What they meant was that if, as a leader, you are trying to meet all the needs without taking the opportunity to refill yourself, gain a new perspective, and remember why you are doing what you do, your compassion, energy and vision will dry up. I have met many excellent leaders who lose sight of this in the day to day and become less effective at leading their organisations as a result. This can be particularly true during times of turbulence and change which requires so much more emotional energy from us to do our jobs. I thought this might be a good time to share with you a project we embarked on with Wiltshire and Swindon Care Skills Partnership.
In 2016, Wiltshire and Swindon Care Skills Partnership identified a need for comprehensive dementia training for service managers across their areas. They were needing to increase capacity of dementia care services across the area. A number of local organisations within Wiltshire and Swindon, including: Wiltshire and Swindon Care Skills Partnership; Wiltshire Care Partnership; and the Wiltshire Workforce Action Group employed the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) to hold seven (two day) bespoke sessions on effective leadership for social care managers. The courses were run between March and September 2018 with the objective of enhancing the knowledge and skills of registered managers in dementia care, with a view to cascade this learning once managers return to their workplace. After the completion of the training session focussed on evaluating the impact the sessions had made.
Over the seven courses offered, there were representatives from 71 providers with 111 attendees in total. To evaluate the impact of the course attendees were asked to complete a survey six months post training. The Partnership also completed four case studies; two for residential care services and two for domiciliary care services, to provide additional insight into the training impact.
Both DSDC and the Partnership were delighted at the evaluation outcomes. A significant shift in attendees’ self-perception of knowledge and understanding of dementia can clearly be identified:
How would you rate your knowledge and understanding of dementia?
Before Training After training
Poor 2 0
Fair 7 0
Good 19 6
Very good 9 26
Excellent 0 5
76% of those who responded indicated that service improvements had been made as a result of the training.
Some of the practical improvements included:
- We are using the bread maker and slow cooker as suggested and we have noted increase in people's appetite. We have put the hat stand by the door to the garden with scarves, hats and 'slip on' wellies and more people are using the garden independently. We are more mindful of contrast when ordering new furniture.
- We are using the paperwork supplied to identify possible triggers for behaviours clients may exhibit, which allows us to tailor a behaviour support plan for staff to use to support our clients in a person centred way.
- Activities and purposeful occupation, supportive workshops around life story work. Care planning workshops incorporating life stories into the care plans. Planned refurbishment of the home with discussion of layout and structure within the home to improve environment.
It was anticipated that managers would return to their place of work and cascade training through their staff. 92% of managers indicated that they were able to cascade learning on their return. Attendees were also encouraged to provide feedback on the overall impact of training on the individual, their staff and their service, which included:
- I feel more confident as a manager.
- I feel that we are better able to understand and support our residents.
- Increased confidence and understanding.
- More confident and knowledgeable to enable a better service.
- It has enabled us to help staff gain a deeper understanding of not just the physical needs but also the emotional needs of our residents as they progress along their dementia journey.
- Uplifted and motivated us all as a team to work together to improve the environment.
- Care plans are more person centred, activities are based on people's capabilities and environment is being refurbished.
- Reduce the barriers of isolation, staff realisation of isolation within a large busy unit. Introduction of new activities.
- Improving quality meaningful care and support.
- I found it a positive experience for personal growth.
If you are a leader in a service for people with dementia and you would like to take a some time to reflect on how you would like to move forward again with your service, we would love to have you involved in Leading the Way.
More information on DSDC’s Leading the way in dementia care: a leadership programme for social care managers can be found here.