Dementia Promise is Launched - our Aim is to Lead Change Within the Care Sector.

10 February 2023 News

Orchard Care Homes, a leading care provider across the north of England, has launched Dementia Promise, a new initiative which aims to be a catalyst for a shift in attitudes towards dementia care across the UK.

The group, which has 23 care homes, is committed to challenging the negativity and inequalities often experienced by people living with dementia in care homes. It has found there is often a reluctance from care homes to accept people who have heightened levels of psychological distress responses which can be expressed through their behaviour. 

Hannah Miller, Dementia Lead at Orchard Care Homes, (pictured above, front, with Orchard’s Reconnect team, Sunderland), said: “Frequently, vulnerable people are referred to care homes by external partners using language that describes them in predominantly negative terms - challenging, aggressive and so on. This language lays the foundations of how the person is seen and thus initiates negative thinking about them from the outset. This needs to change across the sector.”

Through its commitment to ongoing changes in dementia care, the group, which is now fully digital, has committed to training every colleague in three levels of bespoke, evidence-based training; and continues to increase investment in technology, recruitment, and care home environments.

Hannah continued: “Our Dementia Promise aims to break the mould of what care home life has become across the country and sets out to ensure people’s care and support is firmly grounded in who they are and their abilities. This contrasts with common practices which often focus on inabilities and blanket risk mitigation. Through our initiative, we seek to enable life to be as normal as possible for people – with them being encouraged to thrive and live life to the full.”

Orchard’s Dementia Promise aims to:

• Remove conscious and unconscious stigma associated with dementia.

• Encourage others across the sector to stop using derogatory, blaming language.

• Promote genuine collaboration – and provide people with dedicated communication lines with a dementia specialist, regardless of whether they use Orchard’s services.

Orchard’s designated dementia communities, Reconnect, are also expanding as part of this Dementia Promise. With four established communities already in the North East, West Yorkshire and Warrington, and more planned for the future – the group strives to enhance wellbeing overall, by providing individualised, nurturing, and holistic care; focusing on identity, meaningful occupation and positive risk-taking. 

A higher staff ratio within Reconnect communities ensures social needs and engagement opportunities are met successfully as more time is available – thus significantly reducing anxiety and distress levels. As such, Orchard has recorded a decline in safeguarding referrals and use of psychotropic medications, plus a decline in polypharmacy. In addition, weight loss has reduced, as has the pain burden through using PainChek technology – which uses AI to help assess pain levels at the point of care.

Orchard is encouraging others across the sector to follow suit and take steps to change language used in care, which significantly impacts on dementia care culture and behaviours. For example: recognising people live in communities and not ‘units’; removing the term Elderly Mentally Infirm (EMI) and re-phrasing diagnoses to irradicate words like ‘challenging and aggressive’ when describing behaviours. Instead, the group encourages use of more positive language to remove negative images of those living with complex dementia who communicate via their behaviour.