We hear many negative stories about care homes, so it is geat to be able to share some more really good practice in dementia care. What makes a care home ‘Fit for VIPS?’
This is a subject very close to many people’s hearts, including several carers we have featured during this “in my shoes” series, looking at dementia from different perspectives. So it was great news when Simon Foster, Director of Equip 4 Change, agreed to tell us more about this excellent new toolkit…
Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here?
The care home is a vague, looming shadow for all of us. We all know we might ‘end up’ in one. We also know that when the day comes, we might not have the energy or power to make the decision for ourselves. And although people do make that choice, no-one I know has ever said ‘I am looking forward to the day I go into a care home’.
Another looming shadow is dementia. In ourselves or in those we care about, it is almost too much to think about.
So when my brand new, start-up company won its first contract, to provide Care Fit for VIPS, an online toolkit for dementia care in care homes, I had no idea that it would be one of the most positive experiences of my life.
Yet winning that contract 15 months ago has led me to people in all areas of health and social care who believe that hope does not get left at the care home door. I learnt that it is perfectly possible to give joy, comfort, and even an active social life to people in their days of dementia. It’s a different life, but one which may still be equal to anything they experienced up to that point.
I learnt this from people like those at Merevale House in Warwickshire, advocates of ‘active coexistence’, where warmth, positivity and respect is palpable the moment you walk through the door. In a four-hour meeting at Merevale which moved from sitting room to dining room to patio, none of the people who live there came up to interrupt, because they simply didn’t need to. They had plenty to do, confidence in their environment, and good relations with other community members.
I learnt it too from academics like Dawn Brooker and her team, who’ve built a comprehensive framework to demonstrate how to care when memory has gone – but remembering that the person hasn’t.
Then there are doctors and NHS Staff like Dr Karim Saad who wrote an excellent guest blog earlier in the series and Pauline Smith, deep in the NHS, whose wholehearted committed to dementia care makes sure it is more than a Cinderella service.
And perhaps most importantly of all, I had the privilege of drawing on the stories of family carers who were willing to share their stories and perspectives of care.
All of them shared their experience freely. But we quickly discovered that there are thousands of other experts across the world who have shared their dementia knowledge, experience and resources on the world wide web. It is their generosity of spirit that made Care Fit for VIPS possible. Our first creation is a free, online toolkit for all care homes, helping them share in the wonderful world of hope and person-centred care that has been created around dementia in recent years.
Undoubtedly the cruelty of losing your memory is a fate we would all rather live without. But for the first time, after seeing what is possible, and what is already achieved, I fear dementia less than death itself.
Care Fit for VIPS was funded by NHS West Midlands and was developed by Equip 4 Change CIC (a not-for-profit company), the University of Worcester Association for Dementia Studies, and Crystal Presentations Ltd.