DUETcare: From procrastination to reality
During a conversation with a fellow passionate PhD student and now great friend (well we were procrastinating really over coffee when we should have been writing) the ethos of DUETcare was born. Dr. Vicky Richards (yes she has her PhD now!!) and myself (still working on it!) started discussing about our passions when it came to communication, connection and care. Vicky has many years experience working with visually impaired people as a rehabilitation officer and myself as a nurse, predominantly working with people who have had a stroke, are older and/or have dementia (I think we worked out that between us we were talking about just under 60 yrs experience !!)
Results from the first phases of both our research brought out the need to raise awareness of the needs of people with visual impairement and of people with dementia by developing an empathetic approach to communication. Both procrastinating heavily at this stage we talked about the values that we felt were most important for working within any care or hospitality setting. Sharing such a passion for this we waxed lyrically for some hours!! Then realising the time, two minutes before I left to rush across town to pck up my children from school, I sat and worked out an anagram and within seconds, the anachronym DUET(care) was born; Dignity, Understanding, Empathy Training.
Three years later, I have taken a leap of faith and am developing DUETcare; a training, education, mentoring and coaching support programme for people caring for someone with dementia (the knowledge, skills and values can be transferred to all areas of care). Major thanks goes to Vicky and to Angharad Brown from Ardine Training who have offered much support and advice (I met Angharad in a serendipitous way, and that, my friends will be the subject of another blog).
So much of what has happened in my life and the synchronistic events that occurred have led me to this moment and many will be the subject of later blogs (including Udder, my son's cuddly cow being lost and then finding him, led me to meeting a Professor on a hilltop looking for an ageing specialist to undertake a PhD to explore issues around ageing and tourism!!!!).
DUETcare is the result of listening to people with dementia for many many years, from the novice Student Nurse working on Medical wards, who moonlighted as a Care Assistant in a nursing home in the mid 80s, through to caring for older people in Coronary Care, ITU and Elderly Care as a Staff Nurse, a Manager of a Nursing Home in Swansea to an almost expert Dementia Research Specialist Nurse in the Memory Teams of Bath and Cardiff. Here I worked on the pharmaceutical trials of the few dementia drugs currently licensed and this included having to undertake cognitive assessments with people with dementia. To try and do this in the most gentle way to minimise the dreadful effects of the person sitting in front of me knowing that their faculties were failing and this being highlighted every 6 months to register the deterioration. was probably the hardest part of my job.
I will admit that I have a fascination for Neuropsychology (fuelled by reading many works by the Late great Oliver Sacks, as a student nurse) but the reality of actually measuring a person's cognition in front of my eyes was a humbling experience and then listening to and supporting the person following these tests made me acutely aware of what the person was experiencing. I suppose the merging of the art; how to understand the human experience with the science; what is physiologically occurring, makes up some of the basis of DUETcare. In addition to this, my role involved supporting the partners and families too through completing depression and burden scales and sitting and listening and supporting.
As well as my experience, DUETcare draws from so many disciplines, such as neuropsychology, nursing, philosophy, sociology, psychology and quantum physics......yes you heard right. And I think this is the crux of DUETcare; how we can enter through the mist of the person's mind into their world and make a connection is the key. DUETcare will train, teach, coach and mentor people to do this through many creative individualised ways alongside educating on the nature of dementia and its individuality. When we understand the nature of dementia, we can understand peoples' behaviours and help minimise agitation and fear and move towards a model of wellbeing and growth for all involved.
DUETcare has a strong, caring for carers ethos, again whether the carer is a partner, family member or paid carer, DUETcare enables all to be able to care for themselves.
If you'd like to be part of this cultural shift in how we train people to care for someone with dementia; whether husband, wife, family member, formal carer or health and social care professional, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or visit my crowdfunding site and pledge a contribution
Contributions will go towards developing the training documents, creating publications and booklets, setting up carers' courses, reminiscence materials and equipment to help deliver.