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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dementia care: communication in nursing homes

In nursing home liaison the importance of communication quickly asserts itself (as it does throughout health and social care). As an organisation effective communication is evident (or should be) at all levels:

  • Corporate: across the 'group'
  • Management: within the home
  • Clinical: continuity of care between shifts, days - nights
  • Care staff and residents - especially those with challenging behaviour
  • The care home (staff), relatives and community
This week and as also recognised for colleagues in the future, my role will focus on education. In particular reviewing the background, theory and practice of communication with people who are more severely disabled by this condition. I've sixteen slides as a guide, a lesson plan but I will be using a flipchart (arriving early to scribble away) with the intent to engage the audience. Given my pre-occupation with information I want to mix and match as follows:
  1. Use information as a central concept, not technically but personally as per self-awareness, knowledge and orientation, person-centred care.
  2. Have people contemplate communication in a practical sense.
  3. Finally, obviously ensure that what is discussed and shared is directly related to their work, the care needs and challenges of the residents (and families?).
On the information front I'm sure I can employ the conventional and simplified communication model:


This may appear mechanistic but it's an effective way to highlight the real difference that Health Care Support Workers - and indeed family and friends can make to resident's lives. Referring to this model I can demonstrate the very upsetting inequalities that are often found here. The audience can contrast themselves as SENDER and RECEIVER with each other and in care scenarios.

We will identify and acknowledge the deficits that people living with dementia must contend with and endure. This is to review previous learning and ensure staff fully appreciate the care situation. More positively the session will stress the role of staff as builders and agents of personalised care with a great contribution to make.
  1. They can consider (critically) the care environment - yes the 'home' - as the source of potential noise
  2. When there is an imbalance in the capabilities, comprehension and meaning between SENDER and RECEIVER skilled, insightful, and patient staff can compensate, addressing the person's unique needs.

If there are matters that cannot be resolved then these 'risks to person-centred care' should be carried forward to management: a prescription that must be repeated as necessary. With the purported high rate of staff turnover in homes (is that a myth - what are the figures really?) they should be able to leverage these FFIs - frequent first impressions - from new staff, before they are also part of the furniture.

Allied with this is a request for support in person-centred care. For me these two go together and it's good that this 2nd session follows tomorrow. This is an opportunity to introduce the Health Care Domains Model and build upon the points raised and factor in the questions and issues raised by the staff.

Critically across all these layers of comms is: Leadership. A key part of that of course is recognising training needs and pursuing change.

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