Dr Julie Christie is Service Manager – International at the Dementia Centre, HammondCare, based in the UK. She is a visiting Research Fellow with the University of Edinburghand an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of New South Wales. She oversees the work of Dementia Support UK: Connect, Consult HammondCare’s UK consultancy service for care homes. She has experience of working with people living with dementia as a nurse, registered social worker and social work manager; and has a PhD focused on resilience and dementia. Dr Christie has worked across a range of settings, including integrated health and social care, residential, care home and hospital, and has extensive knowledge on co-production, assessment, risk enablement, self-directed support, and issues of support and protection.
Dementia Support UK is an accessible dementia consultancy service, funded by Innovate UK, and free at the point of referral, which builds a support infrastructure for the care of people with dementia across the care home sector. Using video conferencing, this nonpharmacological and person centred model provides care home staff with dedicated one-to-one time with a dementia consultant to:
- Better understand the behaviour of the person living with dementia
- Problem solve
- Build capacity within the care home.
This highly innovative approach was developed in Australia by The Dementia Centre, HammondCare. Since its commencement in 2016, the programme has supported over 25,000 people with dementia in care homes, domestic homes and hospitals.
Dementia Support UK (DS UK) launched in June amidst a growing awareness of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on care homes. The service, funded by Innovate UK and delivered by HammondCare, provides support to care home staff in England at no cost. Staff continue to care for residents in very difficult circumstances, some of which have been dictated by infection control and prevention requirements such as, social or physical distancing, disrupted routines, fewer social activities, and reduced, or no family contact all. For people living with dementia this has had a negative impact meaning they can be at an increased risk of unrecognised pain, delirium, apathy, withdrawal and depression. At the same time, the need for skilled dementia care to respond to behaviours remains, alongside knowledge of the impact of other health conditions, the changes associated with ageing, environmental factors, and the impact of all of these on the behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia. Dementia Support UK has been able to respond to the need for information, advice and support during this period,
Within the first 12 weeks of service, the team has welcomed referrals from small, independent care homes and large, national services alike. Our referrals reflect the complexity of care in care homes, where we have been supporting care staff to respond to an average of five behaviours per resident referred to the service. Agitation, aggression, motor disturbance and anxiety feature strongly in the referrals we receive. These behaviours are linked to higher medication use, and the potential for care home placement breakdown, leading to hospital admissions and/or multiple care home moves. Almost half of all referrals that we have received are to support a resident who is new to the care home within the past six months.
Dementia Support UK is a service in its infancy, however, we are already seeing positive outcomes for both people living with dementia and care home staff. From the responses received to date, both behaviours (82%) and carer stress (73%) have reduced as a result of the personalised consultations, advice and guided interventions. There is strong evidence of capacity building within care teams, with 73% of staff reporting that they would feel confident using our advice and resources with another resident in the same situation. There is also early evidence that Dementia Support UK may reduce the use of statutory services, with 73% of referrers indicating that the resident would have been referred to a local mental health team without the input of the service.
For more information or to connect with DS UK, visit dementiasupportuk.org.