Reflection of the Dementia Inequalities Partnership & Next Steps
The following provides an overall reflection of the project, learning points and next steps.
This project has been fundamental in ensuring support for people living with dementia during COVID-19. Along with our partners, we have been able to deliver services and activities and develop resources when people were feeling confused, anxious and struggling as mainstream service and activities closed. Again, the flexibility of this funding was crucial. As we transitioned in and out of lockdowns and local restrictions, this flexibility and trust from the funders ensured provision truly supported people living with dementia at each stage of their journey.
Many of the new services and resources that have been set up during lockdown and local restrictions will continue to be delivered and developed. During this period and with this funding, we have reviewed our provision and piloted new activities that have proven to address local needs. We were also able to recruit two new posts essential to the delivery of this project, Social Media & Connections Project Worker and a Volunteer & Group Support Project Worker.
The following are the main impacts of the funding from West Yorkshire & Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.
The immediate set up of a 7 day per week phone line as our Information and Support Centre was closed due to lockdown restrictions. This service ensured we could still support those we had already made connections with, assist our carers who were becoming more isolated, take care of our volunteers and ensure our partners were up to date with our services and continue to accept referrals. We were also able to provide support for those with a recent diagnosis and experiencing memory concerns in loved ones.
The Respite and Reminiscence sessions that took place pre-COVID-19 were instantly changed into Home & Garden Visits to ensure we maintained the much need respite for carers. Within these sessions, we also delivered newly developed resources to stimulate those living with dementia. These services are so essential that we designed a new service to encompass this variety of support, called Time to Take, Aire our new Befriending Service.
Our Social Media platforms not only increased in volume of posts and articles are written, but we also set up additional platforms to drive our aspiration to reach as many people as possible and keep people feeling connected. We increased the regularity and volume of posts on our Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel and newspaper articles. In addition, we added to our platform an Instagram account, LinkedIn page, Link Tree App, Whats App groups and Google search/Knowledge panel preview.
Moving many of our activities to online provision ensured we could still deliver activities and groups for people living with dementia, carers and volunteers. The importance of keeping active, maintaining skills, stimulating the brain, and having social contact, although not face-to-face, we maintained. The design of our Information Sheets to ensure people received correct information about various aspects experienced by people living with dementia have been a success both for the individual, the carer, and health professionals. Translating them into community languages and recording audio supports our aim to get information out to the local community.
Finally, Dementia Friendly Keighley, before this project, had already established local partnerships. Still, this project has helped determine further the partnership working, increasing and adapting local services.
When we initially applied for this funding, we hadn’t anticipated the length of the lockdown, the introduction of local restrictions and Tier 3 and then further lockdowns. Therefore the need to constantly review and adapt provision, support staff and volunteers was essential.
During the project, our aim was always to open up our services face-to-face as soon as restrictions allowed. This is because people living with dementia found it difficult to participate in online activities fully and often found it confusing to watch the activity onscreen, which led to some people not participating. However, there is no substitute for face-to-face provision. There are also difficulties for people living with dementia with face masks. This would include wearing them and seeing people wearing them as it can cause upset and difficulty for those who use lip-reading to help with conversation.
The restrictions reduced options on how we could adapt and deliver our services, and using online platforms was our main option, along with the phone line. But access to online platforms can be difficult. Having the skills and knowledge to get online, having access to a laptop or tablet and then trying to follow tutors on a small screen were barriers for some to take part.
Providing Home & Garden visits was in great demand and provided the much-needed respite for carers too. Unfortunately, due to restrictions, we were not able to start this at the beginning of lockdown. But now we have a risk assessment, staff experience, and protective clothing; therefore, we would introduce this service straight away if met with restrictions in the future.
When we started to re-open activities and services, we had underestimated the impact this would have on our volunteer pool. Many of our volunteers are carers or were in the shielding category and therefore could not return. There was also an impact on our partners as the lockdown, and local restrictions lasted longer than anticipated when this project started. This impacted all we wanted to achieve as partners were faced with horrendous demands on their time and involvement, e.g. GP Practices and Care Homes.
- Working hard to get all services and activities back up and running as they were pre-COVID-19, in line with risk assessment and restrictions
- Promoting the Befriending Scheme and securing a team of volunteers to help deliver the service
- Continue the Dementia Inequalities Partnership and sharing of skills and service development. We are pending an application to NHS Charities to secure funding for a BAME specific Diagnosis Service, enhancing our support for local communities.
- Application submitted to maintain Social Media and Volunteer & Groups Support Workers. This would prioritise our social media platform, volunteer support and re-opening of services.
- Reopen The Information and Support Centre fully, maintain the phone line, texting and appointment service
- Recruiting to our volunteer bank
- Maintain the provision and development of our resource library
- Develop partnerships with Local Care Homes
- Promote our Dementia, Voice of Experience group, engage in advocacy, actively challenge service providers and commissioners of service.
- Provide training/awareness workshops for Commissioners, Care Homes and Health Professionals.