How choosing the right care home helps those living with dementia

Dementia brings a range of challenges, both for those living with the condition and for those caring for them. When someone you love develops dementia, it can be frightening for everyone involved, especially if they live alone. Dementia is degenerative, but there are lots of things that can be done to reduce the stress and difficulties of living with dementia, and make sure life is still enjoyable. Choosing the right care home, one with specialist knowledge of dementia in its various forms, isn’t just a reassurance, it can transform the way your loved one gets to live their life.

Guided by the general manager of our Brampton Manor care home, Zoe Kirk, we’re going to look at what care homes should be doing to provide outstanding dementia care.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general, catch-all term to describe neurological disorders that typically affect older people and which get progressively more severe over time. The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia.  Alzheimer’s is by far the most common, about 60% of those living with dementia. Around 10% of people diagnosed with dementia are experiencing more than one type at once, which is known as mixed dementia. While there are some shared or similar symptoms between the types of dementia, the way the condition presents and progresses can vary enormously.

Individuals are unique. An obvious but important point that we’ll return to later in this article. The way those individuals experience dementia is, by the same token, unique. Which makes it all the more important to choose a care home that truly understands the condition and, just as vitally, takes a person-centred approach to care.

Seeing past dementia

‘Person-centred care’ is a well-used phrase in the care sector. It means to shape your approach to care around the needs and desires of each individual person that you look after. The benefits are obvious. More importantly, it means that you’re treating that person as the individual that they are. For people living with dementia, the principle is essential; if no two people are the same, and no two experiences of dementia are identical, it’s clear that to enhance a person’s enjoyment of life and their standards of living, you need to put them front and centre of the support you provide. For Zoe and the team at Brampton Manor care home, that means three things.

Firstly, that getting to know the person in their care really well is paramount. That starts with their history, their likes and dislikes, the information we gather from the new resident and their family to put in their life book. Over time, we aim to reach the point where the smallest, subtlest visual clues will tell us how that person is feeling and how best we can help them.

Secondly, that wherever possible, everything flexes around that knowledge. Familiarity, feeling safe, the establishment of routines…these are all known to be hugely beneficial to those living with dementia, but the principles don’t mean that any one person might not want something a different way sometimes. That might mean showering before breakfast where usually it’s the other way around, or it might mean opting out of a favourite activity just because you’re not in the mood. We’ve all experienced that! It's no different with dementia.

Thirdly, that we actively encourage personal freedom of choice and expression. Safety comes first, of course (which is why our gardens are entirely secure), but living with dementia doesn’t mean you no longer know what you like. Or who you like! Once we reach adulthood, apart from having to put up with colleagues or bosses we’re not wildly keen on, we pretty much get to choose who we spend our time with, don’t we? Now imagine that, just because you develop difficulty in communicating, or struggle with your short-term memory, or find it hard to make decisions, suddenly you’re allocated someone to look after you – and you don’t really gel with them. Find them irritating in some indefinable way. Meanwhile, there’s a carer who just makes you feel like everything is just as it should be. But she’s always busy with someone else. At Boutique Care Homes, we’re as flexible as we can be with duties, so that residents spend the most time with the people they like the most. Personal care where we don’t take other people’s preferences personally, perhaps…

Designing a supportive environment

We’ve already touched upon familiarity and reassurance. We think that equal weight should be given to the word ‘home’ in care home as is given to ‘care’. Yes, of course that means having comfortable, homely décor, furniture and surroundings, but we also mean it in the sense of possession. For our residents, this is their own home.

Brampton Manor’s Nostalgia Community is specifically designed to support those living with dementia, however it manifests. Dementia-designed wayfinding aids orientation throughout the entire home, and there are numerous rummage boxes and sensory displays wherever you go. We promote independence and personal choice, and with activities ranging from doll therapy to exercise and agility classes, music, games and more, there’s always something on offer.

One communal area in the Nostalgia Community is set aside for quiet time. Subject to Covid considerations, visitors can meet loved ones in communal spaces or in residents’ rooms. Those rooms are large and furnished to allow visitors space and seating, so you’re only perched on a bed if that’s how you want to be. Personal effects are encouraged. Favourite photographs, a painting, things with deep emotional significance; that person’s own choice of bed linen. These things matter.

Dementia is a confusing, challenging condition. It isn’t what defines the person who’s living with it, It’s the person and the personality that defines how we support that individual to live a positive, reassuring and enjoyable life.

To find out more about our Nostalgia Community or to request a personal assessment, please contact Brampton Manor on 01638 597130 or by email at mail@boutiquecarehomes.co.uk.

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