The Derby City Dementia Team – Kirsty Rushworth, Beth Reed, Angela Meynell, Debbie Fovargue, Angie Soppet, Julie Matthews, Sam Pritchard, Wendy Burton and Mary Brown – provide support for people with dementia and their families. From the moment of diagnosis, the team are on hand to provide a varied and detailed level of support, centred around the needs of the personal with dementia while enabling and supporting carers.
The team were singled out for praise by the judges of the Home Care Team Award at the Great British Care Awards. They are, said the judges, “completely community focused”, with a passion that is inspirational.
The dedication of the team has never been more apparent than throughout the incredibly challenging times faced by the country in the light of the Covid-19 crisis. With the multitude of groups and personal services the team facilitates grinding to a halt, they’ve come up with new ways to ensure people with dementia and their carers in Derby receive the care and support they need.
Mary Brown is the team leader, for national adult health & social care charity Making Space, which operates the service. “We’re still working as a team,” she says. “We’re just looking at different ways to support people and adapting the services we offer. We’re very close knit and we all have different skills, so everyone has been very pro-active in suggesting how we can adjust.”
Although the team is not currently physically in the one place – two members are working from home whilst looking after young school-aged children, whilst the rest are still based in a large business centre with plenty of space for distancing – the camaraderie and “outstanding partnership working” that impress the GBCA judges are still apparent in spades.
“We’re still busy making sure we’re here to support people in an effective and meaningful way,” says Mary. “People with dementia and their carers need more support than ever at the moment: many people are feeling very isolated and concerned about their own and their loved one’s health.”
The lifeline the team give their service users is multi-faceted: “The first thing we did was inform our clients about the groups stopping in that first week,” explains Mary. “We put a pack together to explain everything – very visual with easy-to-read information about Covid – with quizzes and activities to keep people busy, and an information card that outlined the services we can provide.”
Those services include the usual assessments and help with benefits but now over the phone and online, along with shopping and collecting prescriptions for those who are vulnerable or at risk.
“One of the most important things for us to take into account was to make sure that no-one was left out because of a lack of technology,” says Mary. “We used to run a lot of groups which obviously we can’t do, so we’ve been running them online, with up to 45 participants at a time. It’s really important for us that people are able to stay connected.”
For those who aren’t able to join online groups or chats, Mary and the team have been busy contacting every client individually to ask what facilities they have available. “Most people have smartphones and WhatsApp, so we’ve been able to do video chats with up to four people. For those who don’t have WhatsApp, we call them regularly, sometimes every day depending on how much they need us.”
As well as the personal contact, the team have been hard at work creating and distributing information and activity packs. “We’ve just sent the third one, which is related to Spring: word searches, quizzes, how to bake spring cakes and biscuits. Anything to keep clients’ minds occupied.”
Sadly, there have been occasions where people have needed crisis intervention, but the support of the dementia team has ensured that they swiftly received the help they needed. “Having the regular contact and making sure that no-one is left out has enabled us to identify and deal with crises and get other services involved,” says Mary.
“We’re just trying to do what we’re all here to do, which is do our absolute best to make sure that people can enjoy their life regardless of their stage of dementia.”