There was good news in the past week after inspectors at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were told they will receive dementia awareness training for the first time. The hope is this will drive up standards in residential care homes.
Experts from the Alzheimer’s Society will give training in what dementia is and explore issues around communicating with people with dementia, among other things, to more 2,000 CQC staff – from inspectors to policymakers – in the coming months.
Given how many people who live in care homes or occupy a hospital bed have some form of dementia – about 80% and 25% respectively, according to the Alzheimer’s Society – it is surprising that inspectors have not had some form of mandatory training in it before.
Nevertheless, this training, while overdue, can only be a good thing. People with dementia require specialist care, but as Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said, all too often people with dementia go into hospital when it’s not the best option, stay there too long and that those in care homes do not always enjoy a good quality of life.
This has to change – it has been allowed to go on for too long. Equipping CQC inspectors with greater knowledge should enable them to get a better insight into the lives of people with dementia and, as a result, spot more poor practice and recommend actions to improve standards that otherwise may have been missed.
This will not cure all the problems in the older people’s residential care sector – they are many and complicated – but it is a step in the right direction.
It should – as always – be noted that there are some great care homes out there doing innovative work. For example, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust’s Phoenix Assessment Unit in Withington is using two reminiscence pods – mini pop-up rooms recreating a vintage living room and a cinema, right down to the upholstery, furniture, wallpaper and the films being shown – to connect with people with dementia.
But there needs to be more instances of initiatives like this. Good practice should become standard practice. But likewise, poor practice needs to be stamped out, and if the Alzheimer’s Society’s training helps the CQC to do this, then it will have done its job.