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Dementia Action Week: Support at ExtraCare

In Dementia Action Week, Michael Spellman, ExtraCare’s EOP Lead, explains the Charity’s successful Enriched Opportunities Programme (EOP) and how staff support residents living with dementia…

ExtraCare have had many years of experience of supporting people living with dementia to live as independent and active lives as possible. Our award-winning Enriched Opportunities Programme has supported older people with dementia-related conditions since 2007.

The programme is led by EOP trained staff in our retirement villages and schemes. They’re called Locksmiths, because they help to unlock people’s potential and unpick issues in their present experience of life.

Locksmiths design tailored interventions for each person, to get around some of the issues associated with their individual experience of dementia. Unpicking behaviours which are sometimes deemed as ‘challenging’. It a bit like a dot-to-dot picture – you have to link many things together, such as health, biography, and environment to build a picture of the person’s experience and understand their behaviours. These factors, and many more, have an impact on how we all behave, not just people living with dementia, so we need to look beyond the condition itself to see what a person in our care really needs to live well with dementia.

I once heard the phrase don’t correct me, connect with me in regards to understanding a person living with dementia. I thought it was so simple but so true.

When our approach was tested through research, residents living with dementia who had been supported through the Enriched Opportunities Programme were half as likely to need to relocate to residential and nursing care, residents were less likely to feel depressed or isolated and self-reported quality of life significantly improved over time.

We take a lot of pride in our approach; in 2016 we won the Outstanding Approach to Innovation award at the UK Housing Awards, focused on the work of the Locksmiths.

And we don’t just provide support for people living with dementia in our retirement villages and schemes. We provide Locksmith support in partnership with Coventry City Council to people living in the wider community who have been discharged from hospital with the aim of helping them to remain living at home.

The service has had great results with 69 per cent of people supported being able to remain living at home, when they might otherwise have needed residential or nursing care.

We provide support for around six weeks, working to understand an individual’s emotional and psychological needs. Lots of work we do is with partners or family, to improve their understanding of dementia and how they can support their loved one, and themselves.

I’m really proud of the success of the service, and it’s a great example of how Coventry City Council is thinking differently about how people living with dementia can be supported.