Dementia: training your carers to rise to the challenge

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950,000 today, 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2050. These are the rising numbers of people in the UK with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the demand for homecare increasingly requires dementia care. In fact, the UKHCA estimates that up to 60% of current service users have dementia, though not all have a formal diagnosis. 

Providing homecare to individuals with dementia can be a daunting prospect, especially to new carers. Mood swings, frustration, paranoia and even hallucinations are just some of the symptoms of dementia which your carers will need to be trained and equipped to handle with a cool and calm approach.

However, the fact is, your carers’ time is already stretched. Busy with visits, they also have to find the time to complete their Care Certificate. Adding the demands of  providing effective dementia care may not seem feasible. Yet, without it, the quality of your service will drop, with both your service users and carers paying the price as more complaints are lodged and more carers quit or take sick leave as they become overwhelmed by their daily work. 

It is possible to incorporate comprehensive and efficient training in dementia care into your homecare training programme. It requires leveraging the power of mobile technology to help your carers connect to their training and their mentors anytime, anywhere. But before we get into how we can help implement your care training with our mobile training and coaching platform On.Board, let’s look at what it takes to prepare your carers to look after those with dementia. 

Four key approaches to dementia care training

Ensuring your carers know how to  care effectively for service users with dementia requires a multi-faceted plan, incorporating the following 4 approaches:

Part of the anxiety around caring for a service user with dementia stems from commonly held misconceptions, including the impression that all individuals with dementia are violent and aggressive, are a danger to themselves and to others, cannot think for themselves and cannot be supported in any way that will improve their state of mind. 

Dementia awareness courses are designed to explain the reality of living with dementia, dispel these misconceptions and empower carers to be confident in the care they deliver. 

Mentorship by long-standing carers experienced with dementia care reinforces this learning and further raises awareness around the issues at hand. Sharing personal accounts of real-life experiences with dementia care can often have a greater impact on dealing with any apprehension your carers may have. 

Your carers form trusting, supportive relationships with their service users, often providing much-needed companionship. Consequently, bearing witness to the effects of dementia on a service user can have an emotional impact on your carers. Ensuring they have a designated mentor to turn to for support, advice and guidance is vital to protecting their own mental wellbeing. 

Furthermore, it can be disheartening for a carer to see progress made one week with a new approach to engage a service user fail to work the following week. The progressive nature of dementia means this is often the case. An experienced hand can provide the encouragement needed to motivate your carers in their continued efforts to engage their service users. 

The development of person-centred care in the context of dementia, as discussed in a study by Cohen-Mansfield and Mintzer (2005), highlights the benefit of interpreting so-called challenging behaviour as attempts by a service user to communicate in the face of physical, social or mental challenges. This change in perception enables your carers to better understand why a service user is behaving in a certain way and therefore take the right steps to resolve or de-escalate the situation. 

This change in perception is not something that often comes naturally. It requires taking the time to reflect on the situation and the emotional and physical state of the service user. While this is not always possible in the moment, pausing for thought after a visit can help develop a way of thinking that will eventually become second nature.

Activity-based care is crucial in creating meaningful moments of fulfilment for service users with dementia, helping alleviate their symptoms and enhance their quality of life. There is no one size fits all approach and as such classroom learning cannot exemplify every scenario your carers may come across. 

It could be as simple as chatting about an ornament or picture in a service user’s home, asking a service user to teach them a skill they have, potting a plant, playing a board game or visiting the local cafe. The options are endless. However, they often require flexible thinking so that opportunities can be capitalised on when they arise. 

Carers should be supported in the development of soft skills which will enable them to think on their feet and adapt activity-based care to individual service users. This doesn’t just benefit the service user but also promotes greater job satisfaction in your carers.

How can On.Board help?

Mobile learning and coaching platform On.Board allows your carers to access their training in between visits, at home or on the go, making the most of whatever free time they have to develop their skills and knowledge. When it comes to caring for those with dementia, On.Board facilitates each of the 4 approaches to dementia care training discussed above through customised training activities and by enabling and tracking regular connections with your experienced mentors. 

Mentorship and digital feedback

Through On.Board’s Performance Hub, every carer is connected to their network of designated mentors and managers. This provides clear lines of communication to support a carer’s training and development needs. It enables regular, timely feedback on completed training activities, with mentors receiving instant notifications on the completion of activities. Mentors can then share their own experiences in the context of a given care scenario or training activity and encourage positive approaches taken by their carers. 

Tailored training and self-reflection 

Development activities in On.Board are easy to customise via our user-friendly builder, incorporating text, images, question forms, embedded videos, e-learning and other online resources. 

Mentors and/or coaches access digital observation forms which enable consistent attention to best practices by the carer. These observation forms provide the basis for structured coaching conversations which highlight areas of strength and opportunities for development. Being digital, these documents grow to form an illustrated history of a carer’s progress and can be shared across a team of mentors to support a consistent approach to carer development. 

Finally, self-reflection forms can also be used to prompt carers to consider how they dealt with challenging care situations, the drivers behind their behaviour and what, if anything, they could do differently. Combined with mentor feedback, the identified opportunities for development can be captured in an action plan visible to the carer, their mentors and leadership, delivering transparency and accountability throughout the organisation. 

Experience On.Board 

To see for yourself how On.Board can support your homecare training to meet the needs of your carers and ultimately your service users, request your free demo

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