Dementia can be a difficult and perhaps frightening subject, so choosing the right type or care can be hard for families.
With this in mind, SoGlos talked to Edwardstow Court Care Centre about how early diagnosis can help people make decisions about their future; how to choose the right care; and what support is available for care home residents and their families.
About the expert – Ashleigh Saunders, head of dementia care at Edwardstow Court Care Centre
Stow-on-the-Wold’s Edwardstow Court Care Centre is one of The Orders of St John Care Trust’s 17 care homes in Gloucestershire. As one of the UK’s leading not-for-profit care organisations, The Orders of St John Care Trust works solely to provide high quality care for older people, delivering tailored care and support for each individual.
Ashleigh Saunders is the Head of Dementia Care at Edwardstow Court Care Centre. She joined the team in January 2020 having worked for The Orders of St John Care Trust since 2014 at its sister home, Jubilee Lodge in Bourton-on-the-Water.
How does dementia impact people’s lives?
We know that for many older people, a diagnosis of dementia is feared more than any other. When people first experience memory difficulties or cognitive problems it can be frightening and they may put off seeking a diagnosis. However, early confirmation can help people to make decisions about their future care needs and who they would like to be involved in making choices for them if they become unable to do so themselves.
Individuals fear that a diagnosis of dementia will mean that they lose their independence and will no longer be able to do the things that they want or enjoy. I support the team at Edwardstow Court to develop their knowledge and understanding of supported decision making and how we can continue to support and empower residents to be as independent as possible and to live fulfilled lives.
How does Edwardstow Court Care Centre support those living with dementia?
As head of dementia care, I lead on dementia care and embedding best practice within the home. I also attend monthly clinical supervision with one of the trust’s specialist dementia nurses – called admiral nurses – where we review current best practice and share examples with other heads of dementia care working in OSJCT homes, to ensure that all of our residents receive high quality care informed by evidence and best practice.
Working alongside an OSJCT admiral nurse, we provide support in meeting the needs of our residents living with dementia, including those with complex needs. At Edwardstow Court we also have a dementia lead who supports me.
What makes the environment at Edwardstow Court ideal for residents living with dementia?
Edwardstow Court has been created for people living with dementia with a design based on respected research. Quality of life for older people is influenced by their environment and good design is increasingly recognised as an important aid in the care of people living with dementia.
The care home is split into small households, which helps residents to familiarise themselves with their environment. Each household is designed to enable residents to participate in household duties such as washing up and cleaning, should they wish to. Low level walls separate living spaces and different rooms have specific functions, for example distinct dining and lounge areas. These rooms have visual cues to aid orientation.
Edwardstow Court has safe and secure outdoor spaces which residents can freely access safely when they wish. Each bedroom is large enough for each resident to bring personal belongings including pictures, artwork, and small items of furniture so that it feels familiar and more like home.
What makes a dementia specialist household at Edwardstow Court different from other care homes?
The team working on the dementia specialist household all receive training to an enhanced dementia practice level. This means that the team are skilled to identify and meet the needs of residents living with dementia with complex needs. As head of dementia care, I work with carers and care leaders on the dementia specialist households to ensure that they feel confident and competent, by working alongside them and role modelling approaches.
How are new residents living with dementia and their families supported at Edwardstow Court?
Relationship centred care is seen as pivotal in creating enhanced environments that people want to live in, work in and visit. Therefore, when a resident comes to live in our home we are not just there to care and meet the needs of the resident, we are also there to support their family and friends who are still a very important part of their care.
On arrival at Edwardstow Court, a member of the care team will spend one-to-one time with the resident and their family to get to know more about them. This will include finding out who the resident is, the food and drink they like and how best to support them. The home will also contact the resident and their family beforehand to find out what their favourite cake is, and our chef will bake this for their move in day.
The resident and their family will also be assisted to create an ‘all about me’ document. This records element of the resident’s life story to capture their lived experiences, values, and the beliefs which shape who they are. Having this life story information offers us important clues as to how to support them in a person-centred way – and how to arrange meaningful occupation, activities and ease of communication.
As head of dementia care, I am on hand for any family members who may require additional support at any time, and I can make a referral to an OSJCT admiral nurse to provide additional practical and emotional support to family carers.