Understanding what makes good dementia friendly initiatives in health care

Read about a research project we funded on a realist evaluation of interventions that support the creation of dementia-friendly environments in health care.

Lead Investigator: Professor Claire Goodman

  • Institution: University of Hertfordshire
  • Grant type: PhD studentship
  • Amount: £79,240
  • Start date: October 2014
  • End date: September 2017
  • Scientific title: A realist evaluation of interventions that support the creation of dementia friendly environments in health care

The background

The experience of people with dementia and their carers can be poor if health care services fail to provide dementia appropriate advice, care and ongoing support. NHS Organisations and professionals have not always had the awareness or knowledge to ensure that care takes into account the specific needs of someone with dementia. 

To address this issue, hospitals and other NHS organisations have developed guidelines, invested in staff training, dementia friendly design and appointed Dementia Champions across the workforce whose role is to support good practice. The experience of people affected by dementia has varied hugely across the country. Little is known about why some organisations and professionals are more successful than others in engaging with dementia friendly initiatives. 

What did the project involve? 

This project aimed to:

  • Review national and international evidence of resources that support staff to provide good dementia care.
  • Understand if this was reflected the practise and care provided in hospital wards. 

The research team identified two hospitals that supported people affected by dementia differently. One site had a unit which addressed the mental and physical needs of people with dementia. The other site used a team of healthcare workers to support patients from across the hospital.

What were the key results? 

The research team found that single-training sessions, such as dementia awareness training, were not sufficient to change how staff provided care for people with dementia.

However they found that staff recognised dementia care as an important part of their work (alongside the care needed relating to their hospital admission) when staff were supported to provide dementia care. This included allowing staff additional time with people with dementia and when staff understood their role in the patient care.

The research team also found that how staff and managers valued dementia care often influences how the needs of people affected by dementia were defined and prioritised.

How will this benefit people with dementia?

Dementia is often viewed by healthcare professionals as an isolated condition, but people with dementia often have multiple health care needs. 

It is important to understand what are the most effective and efficient ways of increasing awareness and understanding of dementia across the health care service. Ultimately this will help to ensure that people with dementia receive the best quality care. 

Next steps

Professor Goodman will explore funding opportunities to continue developing the finding of this research. They are interested in understanding how best to support staff to care for people with dementia who experience verbal agitation.

She is also interested in supporting staff to understand how to balance the competing needs (physical and medical care as well as dementia care) of people affected by dementia. 

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Further reading