Around 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, including one in six people above the age of 80. That’s a lot of people in need of care, and a lot of families struggling to know how best to provide it.
The challenge of procuring dementia care is likely to fall to those in the sandwich generation, already juggling caring for their loved one with full time work and looking after their children. The default solution tends to be to find a care home.
While care homes do work for many people, they aren’t the only option. I’ve worked in care since I left school and have often been frustrated at the emphasis on completing tasks (shower, dress, give medicine etc.) over building relationships and contributing to a client’s quality of life. That’s why I founded Unique Homecare Services.
I believe in a more holistic approach to dementia care, which includes staying at home but living better. It’s about matching clients with carers who will personally invest in them and their wellbeing. Our aim is not just to get through tasks, but to make an impact on our clients’ lives, encouraging them to do things for themselves, improving self-esteem, and helping them to re-engage with their own lives.
It’s a non-drug approach to dementia intervention, and we work with the world-renowned Lancaster University dementia research team to provide on-the-ground insight from our 150 clients, as well as acting on their findings to provide the best possible service.
The approach is holistic but includes simple things such as shopping together, getting fresh air, eating well, and staying active and stimulated. It’s about quality of life.
A big part of providing this kind of service is ensuring that our carers can be ‘present’ for our clients. Social care is a stressful industry and it can take its toll on a carer, but they must remain engaged to deliver what we set out to do. The same could be said of stressful roles in any industry.
That’s why our staff are given mindfulness training, delivered by our in-house mindfulness teacher. We’re the only company with a bespoke mindfulness in social care programme. It equips my teams with a toolkit of techniques they can draw upon to prevent mental overload; things like stopping and breathing, processing stressful situations before moving on and recognising when they are or aren’t present.
We provide this training within working hours, so as not to add any unnecessary stress, and during the eight-week course, we also cover yoga, meditation, mindfulness walks and even eating exercises.
The results are better than I could have anticipated. I’ve even had a staff member opt to take a less senior role because, using his toolkit of techniques, it became clear that he preferred delivering care himself. It’s changed his life – he’s been able to stop taking anxiety medication and enjoys his work again. The training has also engendered a sense of camaraderie among staff, who previously saw themselves as lone workers (as is the nature of social care).
As our working lives get increasingly stressful, I would urge any business leader to consider how they can improve the quality of life for both their employees and clients. Whatever industry we operate in, the less stress we have in our lives, the healthier, happier and more productive we are.
Written by Michelle Thompson, founder of Unique Homecare Services
Unique Homecare Services is one of the leading providers of homecare services in Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, offering a new model of care that works with the needs of you and your family. To find out more, visit www.unique-homecare.co.uk.