Just before Christmas I saw that a ‘landmark’ training guide had been developed to help those caring for people living with dementia. It’s an extensive guide, at hundreds of pages, and goes into considerable depth, and it is hoped that it will ‘increase quality of care’. Then just a few days later a NICE report found that doctors were still using a ‘tick box approach’ when dealing with end of life care, instead of considering each patient’s own specific needs.
While somewhat unconnected, I find both of these pieces of news equally concerning. When did we become so removed from the real meaning of care that ticking boxes and following guidelines are the best we can offer? Especially when the solution to real person-centred care lies in something so simple. It’s about just really caring for people, and caring in that original sense of the word - it means you’re invested in their happiness, their well-being, that you want the best for them and will do whatever you can to ensure they are looked after and content.
This kind of caring comes from the heart. Sensing or intuiting what would be good for someone, not using the wisdom of a training manual, but using the wisdom of the heart, My concern is that the more we move to cerebral solutions to solve specifics situations (such as caring for people with dementia) the more we move away from the heart, and this is where all caring should come from.
Of course, I welcome all training, it’s vital. But if I was involved in this training programme, I’d start with the heart. I’d tell my trainees, the first thing you need to know about working with dementia and those living with it is to see the person, not the disease - just look into their eyes, talk directly to them, make them feel connected. Have conversations with them, use common day-to-day things to spark their interest, or even their memories. But give them your care, your heart and your time.
As part of our commitment to training and to improving the lives of those people living with dementia, I am very proud of the work we are doing with Suzanne Mumford, who is working with us to design and deliver a ‘Best Practice’ training course for all homes using The Daily Sparkles. Suzanne has over 25 years’ experience working as a dementia and activities specialist for several leading UK care home groups, is a qualified trainer and is currently Specialist Advisor (activities) on CQC care home inspection teams. We hope our new training courses will help keep the heart at the centre of caring, help activity co-ordinators empower all staff to connect with residents in a thoughtful, compassionate and friendly way, while engaging and stimulating them each and every day.
But the crucial thing is, before we even start a training course, is that we have to start with our hearts. You can do all the training you want but without heart it becomes routine, sterile and ineffective. The caring profession is such a rewarding world to work in, if only we can bring our hearts to work with us every day.
Chris Harding, founder and MD, The Daily Sparkle
This article first appeared on The Daily Sparkle blog.
The Daily Sparkle is a daily newspaper featuring nostalgic topics, which helps family members find common ground to share and chat with their loved ones. Every day, each newspaper provides simple, easy starting points for conversation, as well as offering activities, music CDs, quizzes and puzzles to help ensure those with dementia have stimulating, enjoyable and fun daily lives. To find out more on how you can engage with residents or loved one, visit The Daily Sparkle to discover our revolutionary newspaper, magazines and resources, which are changing lives.