Dementia Core Skills

Vital knowledge for the health and social care professional

Dementia Awareness

The word dementia is an umbrella term; it covers many different conditions and diseases of the brain that can cause dementia. Dementia can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular diseases, and many other conditions and diseases.

Dementia eventually leads to significant memory loss and destroys a person’s ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, and to carry out daily activities. Symptoms of dementia vary, however, depending on the individual and the progression of his or her type of dementia.

It can be difficult to care for people who have dementia. Understanding what dementia is, what causes dementia, and the symptoms associated with this condition can help ensure that older adults with dementia receive the highest quality of care possible. This course has been designed with those outcomes in mind.

Dementia Identification, Assessment and Diagnosis

Care-givers need to be able to recognise possible symptoms of dementia and to take the appropriate action to help enable early diagnosis. It’s important that the care-giver is familiar with the dementia assessment process and can support the person being assessed.

This course is relevant for all health and social care professionals, but especially those who work in Memory Assessment Services or who provide care and support to people who are at a higher risk of developing dementia (for example, older adults; people with learning disabilities; or those with cardiovascular disease, alcohol misuse, or chronic mental health problems).

Through this course, care-givers learn the differences between the most common types of dementia, when a referral for further assessment should take place and how this process should be initiated. They are guided through the process of a specialist dementia assessment, and learn what people who are referred can expect to happen.

Dementia Risk Reduction & Prevention

We sometimes think that developing dementia is out of our control, but because some types are influenced by vascular risk factors, lifestyle changes can help to slow, delay or even prevent dementia development.

This course provides the awareness and skills of health promotion that are associated with reducing the risk of dementia.

It is aimed at both healthcare workers who provide direct care for those living with dementia and social care managers and leaders.

Person-Centred Dementia Care

Healthcare workers should understand the human value of people with dementia, regardless of age or cognitive impairment. Fundamental to this is understanding their individuality, and the fact that their unique personality and life experiences will influence their response to the dementia. Care approaches and solutions should consider the perspective of the person with dementia in order to meet their individual needs.

Implementing a person-centred approach can include life story work, advance care planning, and the creation of activities that are particularly meaningful and enjoyable for the individual with dementia

This course teaches the role of family and carers in person-centred care, and the potential of relationships and interactions with these people and others for promoting the wellbeing of the person with dementia.

Understanding how a person’s needs may change as dementia progresses and knowing how to adapt their physical environment to meet those changing needs is key to person-centred dementia care.

Communication, Interaction and Behaviour in Dementia Care

One of the most challenging tasks faced when caring for a person with dementia is responding to their needs. While it may be difficult to establish exactly what is going on for the person, it’s very important to try and listen to them and respond effectively. Effective communication is the key to understanding and responding to many of the behaviours a person with dementia exhibits.

Care-givers should recognise the impact dementia has on one’s ability to communicate. This course teaches how to adapt communication techniques when caring for people with dementia, and recognise how person-centred care can improve communication.

Non-verbal communication (e.g. body language, visual images, and the appropriate use of touch) is important, as is the ability to recognise distressed behaviour and provide a range of responses to comfort or reassure the person with dementia.

Health and Wellbeing in Dementia Care

Whilst most people living with dementia are over 65 years of age, there are approximately 40,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in the UK (Alzheimer’s Society 2015). Dementia is not an inevitable part of aging. Rather, dementia is an umbrella term that describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. These cause the gradual death of brain cells, which leads to a progressive cognitive decline.

This course is relevant to all health and care staff in settings where they are likely to have regular contact with people living with dementia. It fosters an understanding of the principles of care and support for people living with dementia, explores the effects of poor nutrition and dehydration, recognises how to manage pain, and teaches how to offer support to reduce a person’s distress.

Pharmacological Interventions in Dementia Care

Many people living with dementia take medicines to help slow down the progression of the disease or to treat its symptoms, but not everyone with dementia will be prescribed medicines specifically for the condition.

Most people with dementia will have other illnesses too, often associated with old age. As a result, they are likely to be on one or more medicines. These medicines can help the person feel better and live longer, but they can also interact with each other and cause side effects that may make them feel worse.

This course covers how medicines work to treat symptoms of dementia, when it is safe and appropriate to use them, and other non-pharmacological strategies which can be used to treat symptoms of stress and distress in people with dementia without medicines.

The course teaches what polypharmacy is, and the risks associated with using multiple medicines for older people, and for people living with dementia specifically. Care-givers also learn about recording and reporting any adverse effect they identify.

Living Well with Dementia and Promoting Independence

Promoting wellbeing and independence in people with dementia is a critical part of properly caring for them. Exploring ways to develop stimulating and appropriate environments and person-centred social activity can be vital to maintaining a person’s wellbeing and independence.

Supporting individuals to meet their daily living needs should include helping them maintain their personal interests, social life, and community involvement, and should take into consideration their cultural, spiritual and sexual needs. Healthcare workers should also understand the role of family and carers in enabling people with dementia to live well.

Enabling people with dementia to live well also means understanding the benefits of physical activity, and adapting the physical environment to promote independence, privacy, orientation and safety, including the use of assistive technology. Developing strategies to reduce the struggle with unfamiliar environments is a part of this.

Families and Carers as Partners in Dementia Care

A person living with dementia comes to depend upon friends and family members as they adjust to their evolving condition. For you as a paid carer to make a positive impact, it is essential that you have a good working partnership with these supporters.

Caregivers should know how to work effectively alongside relatives and friends who may also be caring for an individual. They should understand the toll that caring for a friend or family member with dementia takes on people and how to work in partnership with these loved ones; and know how to recognise and respond to their needs and communicate with them compassionately.

This course is relevant for anyone whose role brings them into contact with carers of those with dementia, whether that’s providing hands-on care in people’s home, care homes, or hospitals, organising care packages, or setting up groups and activities that will enable carers to continue in their caring role.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Dementia Care

Equality, diversity, and inclusion are abstract ideas until they become real within concrete actions and interactions. Professionals working in dementia care must be informed and aware about ways that stigma and discrimination may be affecting those they are supporting, so they can act appropriately. It’s important for health and care staff to be abreast of equality and diversity legislation, and common forms of discrimination that people living with dementia experience.

Carers can also be affected by negative stereotypes and discrimination, and this course addresses steps to take to overcome stigma and ways to challenge forms of discrimination.

Law, Ethics and Safeguarding in Dementia Care

This course provides an introduction to the ways in which you safeguard people living with dementia and approach their care ethically.

All health professionals have a legal duty of care towards the vulnerable adults with whom they work and must act in their best interests at all times. The best interests’ principle is what underpins the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (section 1 (5)).

End of Life Dementia Care

There is no cure for most forms of dementia. Health and social care professionals are likely to care for individuals with advanced dementia, therefore, they must have an understanding of the palliative and end-of-life care needs of these individuals. This course takes an in-depth look at the end-of-life issues related to individuals with advanced dementia.

Research and Evidence-Based Practice in Dementia Care

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a critically important methodology that can be used to develop the best services for people with dementia.

This course provides a basic, practical understanding of proper evidence-based practice. Care-givers will learn to find and apply the most current available evidence comprising research findings, knowledge gathered directly from practice, experience, and preferences collated from people with dementia, as they work towards creating the most efficacious care for people with dementia.

Leadership in Transforming Dementia Care

There has been a significant shift in the perception of people living with dementia. This shift relates to the adaptations needed to more fully engage these individuals, their families, and their carers.

Across the UK, many hospitals have signed charters, such as John’s Campaign, to demonstrate their awareness of the issue and willingness to adapt.

Despite dementia being recognised as the leading cause of death in the developed world, and the now 1.5 million dementia friends who have participated in education programmes, dementia is still not considered mainstream in many areas of healthcare.

Over the next 20 years, we will see a dramatic rise in the numbers of older people accessing health and social care services, and in particular those living with dementia.

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