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Building dementia awareness in care homes

1 September 2017

The Challenge

Each year the number of people living with dementia is growing, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. It is estimated that 70 per cent of people currently in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems, highlighting the increasing need for care homes to be supportive environments for people with dementia. The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia (2012) outlined the need for all health and social care staff to receive dementia awareness training as part of making services more centred around people’s needs.

UCLPartners and the Health Innovation Network (HIN), funded by the NHS London Dementia Clinical Network, have delivered dementia awareness training across North Central and East London and South London to enable training to be delivered and evaluated at greater pace and scale.

Facing the challenge

The aim of the collaborative project was to raise awareness and understanding of dementia amongst care home staff working in residential and nursing homes, in order to facilitate better support for individuals with dementia and their families. Running from September 2016 – March 2017 the project sought to achieve this through the design and delivery of a sustainable dementia-training package, which was cascaded to care homes using local trainers.

This bespoke 2.5 hour training package comprised three modules selected from previous dementia educational programmes delivered by UCLPartners and HIN.  This included:

  • DeAR-GP: developed by the HIN, it is a simple case-finding tool designed for use by care workers to identify people who are showing signs of dementia.
  • Barbara’s Story: a series of films developed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to raise understanding of dementia amongst their staff. An evaluation by London Southbank University concluded that the film raised awareness, prompted reflection on practice among staff, and shifted cultures within the organisation.
  • Join Dementia Research (JDR): a service which allows people to register their interest in participating in dementia research and be matched to suitable studies. JDR is one of the innovations supported by the NHS Innovation Accelerator, which is hosted at UCLPartners.

The project consisted of:

  • Developing a cohort of trainers from nominated staff within residential and nursing homes
  • Ensuring that trainers are confident and competent at delivering the training through initial mentoring
  • Evaluating the impact of the training on participants through collection and analysis of agreed metrics.

Progress highlights

  • 24 care/residential homes participated in the project
  • 165 care home staff have been trained in dementia awareness from January to March 2017
  • The project has encouraged participating care/nursing homes to align with local networks and forums to forge stronger relationships and continue shared learning in dementia care. Local GP practices have also been informed of the project.


Participating care homes have reported a significant shift in understanding and knowledge around dementia using pre-and post-training evaluation forms. Across both regions, attendees reported:

  • 80% felt more confident in supporting people with dementia using person-centred values after training
  • 97% of participants reported an increase in confidence in caring for a person with dementia after training
  • 93% feel more confident referring a person with suspected dementia to a GP
  • 96% of participants more confident to raise JDR with residents, families and colleagues.

We would like to thank the hard work and dedication of everyone that participated in this project.“The training has been a great benefit to our staff. One of my colleagues who attended our in-house training session become very emotional, realising how much they could improve their care, being able to recognise the individual needs of our residents with dementia.”

– Care Home Deputy Manager developed as a dementia trainer