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Dementia Action Week: Dementia Support in Action

During Dementia Action Week, ExtraCare is looking at the work of the Enriched Opportunities Programme (EOP), which supports residents living with dementia and dementia related illnesses. Trained dementia support workers, known as Locksmiths, offer personalised dementia support to ExtraCare residents.


Edna moved to New Oscott Village nearly nine years ago. In 2016, she was taken ill and went to stay with her granddaughter Sam while she recovered. When she came back, the Village’s Locksmith, Richard Mason Smith, started to keep an eye on her, as she was starting to show signs of dementia.

Edna had always been very outgoing, but she had become more withdrawn and started staying in her apartment.

Sam says: “She wouldn’t go out. She used to be so outgoing, but she started just sitting inside, with the TV off. Richard encouraged her to come downstairs and attend to some groups. She’s even started going on walks again.”

Edna had also stopped eating. Richard explains that he talked to her about her food preferences. “I started to delve into her eating patterns. We mentioned the café and it dawned on me that she was happy to eat from there. She enjoyed the packaged sandwiches but wasn’t going downstairs to get them – and the cost adds up of buying packed sandwiches every day. I thought about it and realised we could get the packets and make them up like they do in the café.

“I spoke to the chef and asked if we could do this for a short time, and he gave me some of the containers. We built it into her care plan. The care staff present sandwiches to her in the packets, and she’s eating them.”

Sam adds: “It’s a relief. She’d lost a lot of weight and wasn’t getting the energy she needed.”

Edna is now starting to leave her apartment more often. She is walking around the local area again, and says that she really enjoys walking.

In addition to interventions like this, Richard also spends a lot of time talking to Edna and other residents about issues that are making them anxious. He says: “It’s about communicating, making sure that anxiety levels are low. It can be easy to get upset, and having someone there to listen can help. Some people have carried burdens around for many years, and you can see that they feel lighter after sharing things that have happened to them in the past.”

Richard, who graduated from a course in counselling and psychology at the University of Warwick, has worked for ExtraCare for nearly five years. Before coming to ExtraCare, he worked in care management in domiciliary care.

He says: “I love my job. It’s about providing something that’s person-centred, looking at more than just someone’s physical needs. I really believe that I can learn from everyone I talk to.”