Changing Attitudes and Culture of Dementia in Care Homes: Improving Care

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • By viewing people with dementia as unique individuals rather than a group of victims of a terrible disease, shifts the way relatives and health care staff interact with them.  It recognizes the whole person, their past accomplishments, their social interactions, their psychological needs, and reinstates their humanity. It reduces the, them-and-us culture.


    How We View Dementia

    If we consider Alzheimer's as a form of disability, it focuses on the importance and quality of care they receive. Yes, it acknowledges that this degenerative disease of the central nervous system is terrible, but it places emphasis on the delivery of good care. By good care, I mean care that acknowledges the person as central and deserving of a good quality of life. When people enter institutions such as care homes individualism is often the first casualty in the delivery of care. This has to change.

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    Read: Does Alzheimer's Change Personality? 


    Emphasis of Care

    Often the emphasis of care is on meeting basic needs such as food, clothing, adequate sleep and warmth. In other words the emphasis is on physical care. Of course physical needs represent the basics of care, which are important, but they are the basics. Care facilities are often good at meeting basic needs but pay only minimal attention to person centered care. Homes are often constrained by low staffing levels. A consequence of this is little time spent talking and offering and encouraging social interaction between residents. Neil Hunt, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Society, says a typical care home resident with dementia spent only two minutes every six hours actually interacting with other people, and only one in 10 care home staff has specific training in dementia.

    Research and Funding

    Although it is important that we put money into research for possible medical breakthroughs, it is equally important to fund research into strategies that might help people with Alzheimer's. For instance, from previous research we know that residents who do more and communicate with others experience a greater proportion of time in a positive mood state. Quality of life has to take a more central role in care homes and the current typical care homes have to change their ethos of care.


    Can I make a difference in my Loved one's Nursing Home Care?

    Relatives can make a big difference with care. For example, they could represent their loved one at staff meetings, they could intervene more actively in their loved one's care as well as helping with outings and social events. Joining or setting up relative support groups or care home liaison groups can improve communication. Don't be shy in pushing for sensible changes in care standards, show the staff you care.


    How do I make judgements on quality of life in care homes

    Try to put yourself in the place of residents in care homes for people with dementia. What is like to have dementia? You can try answering the following questions;

    • How am I treated by staff when they are assisting me?
    • How do staff speak to me?
    • Are my wishes respected and my views taken into account?
    • Do staff regard me as a person with desires, hopes and expectations just like them?
    • Do I have opportunities to relate to other people that are important to me?


  • Read about the Four Most Common Causes of Emotional Distress in People with Alzheimer's

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Published On: March 01, 2011