Trailblazing scheme provides support for both dementia patients and carers
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has launched a pioneering programme to support carers at the same time as dementia patients are receiving treatment.
The trust’s Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP) team now runs a joint Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) and Caregiver scheme for people who have been diagnosed with dementia.
CST is a recommended treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia which helps to improve their memory and thinking skills to be able to cope better with memory loss. Across seven weeks, group members take part in fun and relaxed activities such as games, reminiscence, music and crafts, which help to stimulate thinking, memory and making connections with others.
Northumbria Healthcare’s Memory Clinic has run group CST sessions for many years and, following a period where they were held virtually due to the pandemic, has welcomed the return of face-to-face sessions, with Covid-secure measures in place. Deputy manager Katie Hughes says the ‘warmth and enthusiasm’ on display ‘show how important it is to encourage and keep connections with others’.
The new element introduced by MHSOP is a Caregiver programme, which takes place at the same time in a neighbouring room and uses an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) framework to help understand and tackle challenges which dementia can bring. Caregivers are given information and a safe space and time to reflect on the present and future.
Each week, experienced care partners, such as Admiral Nurses and North Tyneside Carers Centre, alongside representatives from legal, technology and wellbeing services, provide valuable practical information on all aspects of care and support to help keep caregivers and people with dementia living well.
The pair behind this initiative, Memory Clinic nurse Elaine Francis and assistant psychologist Toby King, presented the topic at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ National Memory Conference in October to an audience of experienced clinicians, academics and members of the public. The presentation sparked considerable interest, with other memory clinics across the UK expressing interest in doing something similar.
With the support of senior clinical psychologist Dr Nicholas Hudson, Elaine and Toby are currently preparing a research project, focusing on group evaluation, for publication.
The trust’s head of MHSOP, Dr Christopher Davison, said: “This is such a great initiative, using evidence-based practice to support and improve the lives of those living with dementia and their loved ones.
“Partnering with others ensures carers are well-informed and don’t miss out on other help on offer locally. It is heart-warming to see how well this is working.”
For more information on the joint programme, contact the MHSOP Memory Clinic on 0191 293 2542.
Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer, Northumbria Healthcare
Benjamin.O’Connell@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.ukor 07833 046680.