There are currently 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia and this is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. In Yorkshire, Vida Healthcare is one of the providers that specialises in dementia care, supporting residents across three homes in the Harrogate area.
Trainee nurse Heather Connell, chef Linda Aduma and clinical development lead Terri Spruce are among its staff and are highlighting what goes on behind the scenes to help raise awareness around dementia and patient care.
“We learn their daily routines, we know their likes and dislikes, and we know how to keep them happy,” says Heather, who is involved in medication rounds, assisting people with nursing needs and providing activities for residents.
Colleague Terri has more than 40 years of experience working as a nurse in the NHS and in her role with Vida, works closely with nurses and house managers to provide care for residents including taking bloods and caring for wounds.
“It’s not just about resident care,” Terri says. “Educating our staff so that they become dementia ambassadors and can provide the right care for our residents is crucial.”
There are, of course, numerous challenges that care workers can experience. For Terri, end of life care is particularly difficult. “As a resident comes to the end of their life, difficult decisions may need to be made.
“This is of course extremely hard for family members and friends, but can also be upsetting for staff who have formed a particularly close bond with that individual.
“I play a crucial role in working closely with key people to talk about what’s happening and why these decisions must be made, and ensure that the resident receives the best possible care as they come to the end of their life.”
Challenges also arise, Heather says, if a resident becomes distressed, particularly if they find it difficult to communicate. “We do, however, receive a significant amount of training into how to de-escalate situations and support residents so that they don’t become distressed.
“Building a relationship with a resident also helps with this as it enables you to understand any triggers that might cause them stress and how to distract or divert them.”
Linda, head chef at one of the homes, Vida Court, joined the sector in 2018 after a career in hospitality. It is her aim to ensure residents receive an “enhanced and enriched dining experience”, tailored to individuals.
“For the majority of people, food plays a huge part in their happiness and this is no exception for people living with dementia,” Linda says.
“Since I first started working at Vida Healthcare I’ve understood the importance of providing meals which are not only nourishing physically, but mentally as well. We’re intentional in everything we do .
“Whether it’s the menu, the texture of food, colour, or specific ingredients, there are reasons for every choice that is made.”
Next month, May 16 to 22, is the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week, an awareness raising campaign.
Heather, who is currently a student in adult nursing at the University of Bradford and will be returning to Vida as a registered nurse in September, says all trainee nurses should have the opportunity to work in a specialist dementia care setting.
“The more experience you have, the more you understand why people living with dementia might act a certain way, and the more knowledge you have in how to care for them properly.”