As part of Dementia Action Week, Care UK is celebrating some of the innovative, sector-leading practices used by our teams to support residents, their loved ones, and local communities following a diagnosis of dementia.

This year’s Dementia Action Week runs from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May. Created by the Alzheimer’s Society, this week is centred around raising awareness of dementia, and encouraging those living with the condition to receive the support they need.

A selection of Care UK homes are currently undertaking the internal ‘Care Fit for VIPs’ accreditation. The internal accreditation follows the ‘Care Fit for VIPs’ model, which was initially created by Emeritus Professor Dawn Brooker at the Association of Dementia Studies (ADS) at the University of Worcester. ‘Care Fit for VIPs’ is embedded within the NICE guidelines for person-centred care.

Suzanne Mumford, QN, Care UK’s head of Nursing, Care and Dementia, explains: “The Care Fit for VIPs framework has been transformational for the homes who have completed it and received their internal Care UK accreditation. We will continue to enrol homes onto this programme, so that we know, without a doubt, we are delivering the gold-standard of person-centred dementia care across our homes.

“The Care Fit for VIPs approach centres around four key aspects: valuing those living with dementia, treating everyone as an individual, showing empathy towards those living with the condition, and recognising the need for a stimulating social environment. We know that our homes abide by these values in their day-to-day care of residents, but it has been crucial to reaffirm Care UK’s dedication to person-centred care, particularly for those living with dementia.

“By refocusing on supporting residents through activities, creativity and exercise, we have been able to reduce Care UK’s use of antipsychotic drugs for those living with dementia. Where residents do not have an accompanying psychotic illness, these additional methods of support have enabled us to safely decrease prescriptions of antipsychotics by 15 percentage points in the past year.”

Dr Shirley Evans, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, said: “Care Fit for VIPS uses the internationally recognised VIPS Framework developed by the Association for Dementia Studies, led by Emeritus Professor Dawn Brooker MBE at the University of Worcester. ADS recognises the commitment of Care UK in embracing the framework and incorporating it into their annual reaccreditation and continuous improvement cycle.”

The first Care UK home to be awarded the internal accreditation was Field Lodge in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. With the majority of the home’s residents living with dementia, Home Manager Linda Martinez knew it was important to continue to innovate and improve their care offering.

She said: “We ensure residents of Field Lodge are as independent as possible – they do everything from collecting newspapers to helping in the kitchen. Our job is to support them to continue to live their life in the most meaningful way possible whilst providing outstanding source of care.

“We regularly deliver Namaste care in the home – both in group settings and as a one-to-one activity. This is particularly comforting for those living with advanced dementia, as it’s a sensory experience which allows them to relax.

“Our Dementia Care Coach, Keri, has also shared Namaste care with our local dementia group. It’s important for us to support those in our local area who may need it, regardless of whether or not they live at Field Lodge. We want to share any knowledge that would bring someone comfort at a challenging time.”

Since Linda’s home was awarded the certificate in January 2023, nine more homes have followed in Field Lodge’s footsteps – most recently, Weald Heights in Sevenoaks, Echelforde in Ashford and Whitebourne in Frimley have received the accreditation. A further four homes are also due to be internally inspected later this year.*

Activities and creativity are crucial in supporting the needs of residents, including those living with dementia. At Field Lodge, for example, the activities team helped a resident to swim again at the local pool.

It’s not just Care UK residents who benefit from our teams’ expertise – local communities do, too. Most of our homes run dementia cafes, which offer help and advice in living with or supporting someone living with the condition. Homes also open their doors for community events year-round –  whether it’s Field Lodge sharing Namaste with their local community, the team at Appleby House in Epsom opening their annual musical gala night to the community or rolling out the red carpet for their very own ‘Tate’ art gallery, or Colne View in Halstead creating a monthly dementia cinema session and a separate dementia choir – our colleagues want to ensure that everyone is supported when it comes to living with dementia.

At Care UK, we know that discussions around dementia need to be bold, and that loved ones also need to feel supported post-diagnosis. That’s why we launched The Big Dementia Conversation in early 2024 with the help of broadcaster and Strictly Come Dancing star, Angela Rippon.

With The Big Dementia Conversation, we want to get the nation talking about dementia and some of the most difficult topics associated with the condition. Our online advice hub features conversations with real families sharing their experiences, and expert advice from dementia specialists on how to navigate these topics – ranging from changes in personality, to obsessive compulsive behaviours, walking with purpose and loss of inhibitions.

You can find out more about The Big Dementia Conversation, including all-important advice from our teams and key questions from loved ones with lived experience of dementia, on our website: https://www.careuk.com/company/care-uk-campaigns/the-big-dementia-conversation

To read more about Dementia Action Week, please visit the Alzheimer’s Society website: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-action-week

*The full list of Care UK homes to receive the internal ‘Care Fit for VIPs’ accreditation is as follows: Appleby House in Epsom, Surrey; Carpathia Grange in Hythe, Hampshire; Echleforde in Ashford, Surrey; Field Lodge in St Ives, Cambridgeshire; Lauder Lodge and Murrayside, both in Edinburgh; Metchley Manor in Edgbaston, West Midlands; Weald Heights in Sevenoaks, Kent; and Whitebourne in Frimley, Surrey.