There are currently 850,000 people in the UK with dementia. However, the Alzheimer’s Society forecasts that by 2040, some 1.6 million could be living with the condition. While researchers are working around the clock to find a cure – or to at least delay the symptoms of dementia – World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month reminds us that we must also consider the millions of people who are currently living with dementia.
Having spent my whole career both working on the frontlines and studying cognitive impairment, I collaborated with QCS, the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, to create a best practice dementia strategy for social care providers, which seeks to address a vital missing link. That is the gulf between knowledgeable theory and skilled practice.
The result is the Dementia Centre, which QCS launched earlier this month. I believe it is ground-breaking because it provides care professionals with a pioneering set of tools and resources to help them to transform the assessment and management of care provision for living with the condition.
You may have already read about the Dementia Centre, but if you’re wondering how it helps care workers to deliver and evidence better dementia care, it does so by using five tools. They are the PAL Instrument, Mental Capacity Act Assessment examples, Purposeful Practice Guides and Skills Competency Check with a QCS Dementia Compliance Index, which helps frontline workers put theoretical learning into practice. You can find out more about how these tools narrow the gap between theory and practice, here.
In this article, however, I want to focus on the Dementia Centre library, which has been specifically designed to support continuing professional development. How does it do so and how does it link to the rest of the resources? In a nutshell, the resources which I have listed, support-action-based learning. However, the 19 books, 13 films and a raft of cutting-edge research papers, which make up the Dementia Centre library, not only complement the dynamic learning environment that purposeful practice makes possible, but also create a ‘virtuous circle’ of learning.
How? Well, the resources, all of which have been specially graded for in-house learning, have been carefully selected to reinforce individual learning and trigger group discussion about how the learning can be applied in practice, which in turn leads to better outcomes for service users living with dementia. Combined with the action-based resources, the library equips professional carers to constantly embrace the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, ensuring that they always provide outstanding person-centred care, while – at the same time – meeting the highest regulatory standards.
Let me finish by providing an example as to how the library adds real value. Let’s imagine, for example, that a care service wishes to learn more about cognitive stimulation. The Dementia Centre library provides direct references to books and to research articles that care staff can easily access. Reading the material, not only improves their understanding, but serves as a natural prompt for them to explore how they can put this newly found knowledge into practice.
From a regulatory standpoint, that carers are able to extensively utilise the Dementia Centre library, demonstrates to the regulatory inspector that individually and collectively the care and support workers are continuously developing their knowledge. The Dementia Centre facilitates this process by making it easy for care professionals to quickly gather all the references, which they can then record as examples of evidenced best practice. This shows the regulator that the service is not only minded to provide the best dementia care it can, but is also committed to ongoing professional staff development, which is a central cornerstone of effective dementia care.
The article was first published in the Caring Times