A £ 1.2 million government grant will help researchers develop an innovative online program to improve and personalize care for people with dementia in nursing homes, which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
Many of the 400,000 people living in nursing homes in the UK have dementia, mental health or neuropsychiatric symptoms and a range of physical illnesses. They are particularly at risk of developing severe COVID-19, and providing support is a challenge for healthcare professionals facing a difficult, distressing, and isolated work environment.
The award, from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will fund the development of a new program to improve and personalize care. Led by the University of Exeter and King’s College London and involving the universities of East Anglia and Hull, and the London School of Economics, the research is also funded by the Torbay Council and the Schroder Foundation, and supported by the Alzheimer’s Society. The study will build on the most successful elements of their Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD) program, one of the very few staff training programs that have been shown to improve the lives of people with dementia in nursing homes.
Professor Clive Ballard, Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We urgently need to support care staff, who are having an extraordinarily difficult time trying to care for people with dementia and others. residents in difficult circumstances. Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable in society and are at particularly high risk of dying from COVID-19. I am delighted that this funding will help us adapt the program to a COVID-19 world and to make it work quickly, to provide the best possible support to residents and staff. ”
Professor Dag Aarsland, Chair of Old Age Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said: “The social distancing related to Covid-19 has made it particularly difficult for nursing home residents with dementia. not being able to show their families and loved ones and can see staff in full PPE gear, which could be scary, without fully understanding the reasons behind these changes. This should lead to increased emotional distress including anxiety, depression and nocturnal problems, which again will lead to poorer physical health and well-being for nursing home residents.This project will address these challenges and help improve the quality of life for people with dementia in the homes of care, helping families and carers to better adapt to these difficult times. “
Clinical studies have shown that WHELD improved quality of life and mental health and reduced the use of harmful sedative drugs. The staff training program will be tailored to the needs presented by the COVID-19 crisis and a digital version of the program will be provided to nearly 1,500 nursing homes nationwide, with support provided virtually.
WHELD program manager Joanne McDermid of the University of Exeter said: “This study focuses on creating connections and the importance of community, which are particularly vital in a time of social isolation and detachment. create more opportunities for meaningful involvement and interaction with both people with dementia in nursing homes and with caregivers who seek peer link in the nursing home industry. Be able to share what you have learned with other people it makes the experience much richer “.
Professor Chris Fox UEA Old Age Psychiatrist (intervention consultant on the original WHELD program) “As a first-line physician and academic, WHELD digital training for nursing homes will support mental health and primary care services will provide better care for residents who have been affected by COVID -19. “
Professor Esme Moniz-Cook, University of Hull Old Age Clinical Psychologist (co-candidate in the original WHELD program), said: “Nursing homes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Since lockdown in March, I have worked with huge numbers of families, care staff and nursing homes to solve problems associated with reduced social interaction such as coping with loneliness and problems for staff in balancing work and personal family life. I hope the development of this Innovative and much needed online program will improve psychological well-being for both residents and caregivers, through maintained relationships, including those with relatives, and access to a broader support network. “
The platform aims to bring together conversations and resources to share stories and solutions to the challenges that nursing homes face. Short, digestible and practical digital resources and tools that are easily accessible and supported by a network of WHELD coaches will create a community that will allow us to stay connected and supported from a distance.
The first step will be to develop program specific adaptations in light of the COVID-19 crisis, such as peer networking and sharing solutions. They will combine with the core elements of WHELD, focusing on person-centered care that engages the resident in the decision-making process, personalized activities that are tailored to the interests of the residents, and reducing unnecessary sedative medications, known to increase the risk of falls and death .
Within four weeks, the program will be made available to 160 nursing homes. The team will evaluate outcomes related to mental health and staff attitudes, residents’ quality of life, achievement of care goals and use of sedative medications. Based on the findings, the team will assess effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in 1,280 nursing homes before making the program “ready for implementation” for the launch of national nursing homes.
Miguel Vasconcelos Da Silva RN, Head of the Dementia Theme, Department of Old Age Psychiatry, King’s College London, added: “The Care Home Research Network (CHRN), a community of nursing homes across England, has been a key facility that facilitated and enabled research. CHRN has been instrumental in enabling and supporting the development and delivery of the WHELD program, which has been well received by nursing homes and has helped them provide care-centered person.
“It is fantastic to see the WHELD program continue to develop and excel in providing much needed support for nursing homes during this difficult time. I hope the WHELD program will be welcomed by nursing homes, particularly in the current difficult times and with support and help available. ”
Professor Martin Knapp, NIHR Spokesperson for Social Care and Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, said, “Having trained staff to provide person-centered care can make a difference for people living in homes. as demonstrated by previous NIHR-funded research on the WHELD program. I am delighted that our researchers are responding to the pandemic by adapting the program for online delivery, as nursing homes are facing enormous challenges in these difficult times. ”