This is the final blog in our daily #talkdementia blogathon this week, as a ‘special’ to mark Dementia Awareness Week. I am proud to say, however, that #dementiachallengers raise awareness of dementia all year round, so we do not really need special days or weeks to focus our efforts 🙂
As you will see, even my birthday last weekend was marked by a VERY special #dementiachallengers / Whose Shoes? cake! Huge thanks to all the #dementiachallengers helped me celebrate in style with a “tweet up’ in Brighton, including being entertained by the talented Edana Minghella in a Brighton Fringe Festival gig. Tweet ups and gigs – my life has become very exciting! 🙂
Anyway, back to the important matter in hand. Earlier in the week, Barbara Hodkinson told the story behind the wonderful Butterfly Scheme. Here Barbara continues the story, telling us about the scheme itself and the huge difference it can make to people with dementia when they are admitted to hospital…
After I’d been caring for my mum, who had dementia, for several years, she went into hospital for a procedure which successfully allowed her to retain her mobility and stay out of care for several years more. The expected length of hospital stay was five to seven days; for her, directly and only because of inappropriate dementia care, that stay extended to twenty-two days – a very typical scenario for a person with dementia. That inappropriate care was delivered by committed, hard-working, well-meaning staff, who would have been horrified to realise that their actions were in many cases actively contributing to the extension of that hospital stay.
We all know that hospital care can be far from dementia-friendly – but people who blame the staff delivering that care are misguided. Hospital staff want to care well; if their care isn’t appropriate, it’s because they haven’t been given the necessary skill-set –and they should never be blamed for not knowing what they’ve not been taught. Remember, it took me years of step-by-step learning to acquire the skills that increased along with my mother’s care needs; I wasn’t born knowing those things.
I also didn’t expect the staff to know the many quirks and foibles of my lovely mum – but I desperately wanted them to know, because that would allow them to relate to her as the individual she was, maintain her skills and support her in her recovery. Partnership working: it seemed an alien concept back then.
As a teacher, I could see that although lots of things were going wrong, it wasn’t for lots of reasons – not if you analysed the situation from a skills perspective. Using my teaching experience, I drafted a plan to enable all staff to work successfully with people living with dementia. Note: ALL staff. If you meet patients, you meet patients with memory impairment – and you impact on their safety and well-being. We need that impact to be positive, because the alternative is that it’ll risk being negative.
I then went away and liaised with as many carers and people in early-stage dementia as possible; by analysis, I confirmed that my plan covered their wish-list. We were on our way! Hospital staff came forward to feed into the development of the Butterfly Scheme and because it was developed in conjunction with people with memory-impairment, their carers and the staff who take over that care in hospital, it works for everyone. People with memory impairment are helped to opt in, they receive the scheme’s tailored care response and the staff really enjoy using it: www.butterflyscheme.org.uk
Now, the Butterfly Scheme is in a hundred hospitals across the UK and hospitals are finding that wards are happier places, whilst staff are discovering that what was often thought of as aggression was actually fear – and because they no longer frighten the patients, those unhappy incidents are no longer the norm.
My favourite staff comment? “We look forward to the next person coming in who can be part of the Butterfly Scheme!”
Those staff see using the scheme as their chance to shine.