An innovative NHS initiative that was awarded £15,000 of charity funding has been officially launched today, 6th June, by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The initiative will make a difference to people with dementia who live in the region’s care homes.
The initiative, ‘Portrait of a life’ is part of national scheme to improve the quality of life for people with dementia in care homes. The initiative, which was given £15,000 funding from the Mental Health Foundation, is developing a multimedia toolkit to help staff create life stories for dementia patients as a way of piecing together their past.
The ‘Portrait of a life’ toolkit will contain materials that help care homes understand the importance of working with residents and their families to build ‘life histories’ as well as practical examples and guidance on how to do this. The initiative is being led by the Dementia Collaborative, which is driven by the Trust in partnership with 14 other local organisations, including local authorities and other NHS organisations across Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.
Earlier this year, the Government launched the first national dementia strategy which called for an increased focus on dementia care in care homes. Two in three care home residents have a form of the condition, but specialist dementia services are often underdeveloped.
The Portrait of a Life initiative will promote meaningful engagement and wellbeing as well as positive relationships between people with dementia and their friends, relatives and carers. The toolkit will open up opportunities for care home staff to create life stories by giving them training, support and guidance. The toolkit will be shared through the Mental Health Foundation’s networks so it can bring benefits across the country.
The Trust’s assistant director of older people’s services Sue Barton said, "Life history work has the potential to make a real difference for individuals with dementia, their families and staff caring for them. We were delighted to have secured funding for this exciting and innovative project."
There are over 170 care homes in the Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield districts and the toolkit will initially be trialled in 12 homes across these areas. As part of the launch, the success of life history work with a local man and his wife was also shared. Leo and Edith listened as staff described what a difference it will make to be able to share their story in the toolkit and help others understand the benefits of this type of work. Suzanne Wightman, senior manager, said, "It is a privilege to have Leo and Edith here and they truly will become stars of our toolkit!"
The launch was concluded by Professor Mike Nolan from Sheffield University’s institute for studies on ageing who said, "This initiative brings together two of my passions – firstly, work in long-term care settings, namely care homes, and this will help recognise the often undervalued role they play in caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And secondly, working closely with families and carers. The benefits that will be reaped from this initiative will be out of all proportion to the money that has been spent on it and it will make a real difference to the lives of individuals."