Hallmark Carehomes
Delivering relationship-centred dementia care in Hallmark care homes

7 May 2019

Delivering relationship-centred dementia care in Hallmark care homes

April Dobson, Head of Relationship-Centred Care, shares her thoughts on how we deliver the highest standard of care for all residents.

I joined Hallmark Care Homes in May last year, and my role is to support our teams to deliver excellent relationship-centred care for everyone who lives in a Hallmark care home, particularly people who are living with dementia. I have a national remit, which means I get to see how all our homes are implementing our ‘Together’ dementia strategy right across England and Wales. I am constantly inspired by the innovative, creative and caring approach of our team members.

As I visit our homes, we talk a lot about people and person-centred care; how we go about identifying qualities, interests, preferences, abilities, needs and aspirations. We talk about how we practically enable individuality, choice and control through elements like life story work, personalised environments, in-depth communication work and the creation of opportunities and experiences, all with the end goal of improving each person’s well-being. We know that understanding the individual is key to improving quality of life for residents, and our core dementia training reflects that.

Relationship-centred care is at the heart of Hallmark Care Homes’ ethos. It means that we respect and support all of the relationships that help make every one of us what we are, and we treat them with the importance they deserve. I remember that someone once said (and I can’t remember who!) that “a person is a person through others”, and to me, that means that if we support people’s relationships with others, then we are absolutely supporting the individual. Within social care and in a professional context this means that we need to support relationships that are mutual – a relationship happens when each party accepts and respects the other.

When this happens, trust and confidence are built and we are much better placed to find ways to empower and enable the person to do as much as they want to. Of course, that involves being present in the moment and seeing the person, not the task or the condition, and it’s great to see what a difference this can make to everyone. It’s also great to see how keen our teams are to learn and embrace new ideas and approaches that support our vision of relationship-centred care, and this year, we are introducing some new initiatives in our homes. The first of these is a practical, evidence-based coaching programme to support the provision of dementia care in our homes. The programme is based on the ‘FITS into Practice’ model created by Professor Dawn Brooker and others at the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester. ‘FITS’ stands for ‘Focused Intervention Training & Support’.
The programme aims to deliver the following:

  •  Better quality of life for people living with dementia
  •  Development opportunities for our teams
  •  Tools and knowledge for our teams to better support people living with dementia
  •  Firmly position Hallmark Care Homes as leaders within the dementia care field

Participants will learn to lead the coaching of colleagues within their homes. They will also support their colleagues to develop practices that promote wellbeing and reduce disability and distress in people living with dementia through the introduction of specific interventions. Our ultimate goal is that true person-centred and relationship-centred care and support becomes the standard for everyone.

We believe that people living with dementia deserve the very best care we can provide and that we have a responsibility to keep up to date with practice developments. As such, we are one of the first care home groups in the UK to pilot the Montessori approach for frailty and dementia within some of our homes. Many people will have heard of Montessori in the context of teaching children. Maria Montessori (1870–1952) was the first female physician in Italy and she worked with underprivileged children who were labelled as ‘unteachable’. Her goal in working with these children was to improve their quality of life, and her vision was “To enable persons to be as independent as possible, to have a meaningful place within their community, to have high self-esteem, and to have the chance to make choices and meaningful contributions to their community.”

Montessori uses a strengths-based approach in that it focuses on what people CAN do rather than what they can’t. It brings together evidence from many disciplines including occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, social care and nursing. It’s about preparing the environment and tailoring activities to ensure the person succeeds, not fails.

Think about a bowl of fruit put out on a table. You or I would easily be able to identify it as fruit and would know if it was OK for us to help ourselves. A person living with dementia might not recognise it and may not understand what they should do with it; therefore, the fruit would most probably be there the next day, untouched. We can help by placing a simple written invitation next to the fruit bowl, saying something like “Please eat the fruit”, providing clues and prompts to help people make sense of things. Very simple, but proven to be extremely effective. We believe that using Montessori methods will strengthen our focus on relationship-centred care by creating enabling environments for everyone.

This year is shaping up to be the year that Hallmark Care Homes takes relationship-centred care to the next level. I feel very privileged to be part of that, and excited by what we can achieve together.

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