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How everyday objects can improve quality of life for people with dementia living in care homes

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How everyday objects can improve quality of life for people with dementia living in care homes

The Guardian published an article today discussing a care home project showing how mundane tasks like collecting breakfast trays and polishing is good for residents’ wellbeing.

Thursday 14th January 2021

“When you woke this morning the clothes you planned to wear were gone. The shower gel smelt weird – it wasn’t your usual. There was no hairdryer to dry your hair. You wanted to make a hot drink but you had no access to a kettle … How is your day going? How do you feel? Welcome to the lives of many people with dementia living in care homes.”

This is the opening of a new training programme for care home staff developed by Dr Kellyn Lee, chartered psychologist and research fellow in ageing and dementia at the University of Southampton. Called material citizenship, it aims to get staff thinking about the importance of mundane, functional objects to our lives and identities, and how giving their residents agency over these things can significantly improve their wellbeing.

Charlotte Gilbert the general manager and the care home’s senior care assistant, Becci Fletcher, were among five staff from Brendoncare Knightwood who participated in the first one-day material citizenship course (moved online due to Covid). They credit the training with improving their practice as well as making them feel good about their work and the difference they can make – a welcome morale boost, mid-pandemic. Crucially, they say, it has “definitely” made life better for people in their care.

“One of our residents really wanted to polish her own room with a particular polish,” says Gilbert. Initially this was seen as unnecessary: the cleaning staff were there to clean. “But now we’ve got her the polish she wanted. She polishes her room and it makes it smell like home.”

“Another resident goes around collecting up all the trays after breakfast,” adds Fletcher. “Before the training we would say, ‘don’t worry, we’ll do that’ but now we let her do it. She enjoys it. She feels she’s looking after people and it gives her more sense of worth.”

Lee has now secured another year of funding, from the National Institute for Health Research’s Applied Research Collaboration Wessex, to roll out the training to more care homes. Sessions for other Brendoncare homes and Hallmark Care Homes will begin in February with more to follow.

Fletcher and Gilbert are in no doubt about the value of the rollout: “We feel passionately that everybody should have this training. If you take people’s everyday things away they lose independence and who they are. It may only mean changing 10 minutes of the day but it can make a massive difference.”


To access the full article click here