More than 300 delegates from all over Ireland attended the ‘Living Well with Dementia’ conference organised by St. Luke’s Home Education Centre in Cork. Welcoming the assembly of participants, including nurses, care assistants and consultants, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Dr Paul Colton, said that the principle which should underpin our caring for others is compassion and we should care for others as we would wish to be cared for ourselves.
From that premise, the high calibre speakers rooted their presentations in ‘person-centred approaches’ which clearly connected with the hunger for understanding of those working in residential care. The wide range of topics covered clinical, legal, community and social perspectives at the cutting edge of our understanding of this complex area. The conference challenged the assumptions many hold about the experience of those with Dementia and how to care for them.
The key note speaker was Professor Jan Dewing and she asked those present to reject the popular ‘catastrophising’ of Dementia and to consider it as another way of being human. She talked about the concept of ‘time travel’ as helpful when relating to people with Dementia and rightly saw the role of caregivers as ‘holders and instillers of hope’. Her positive approach to ‘living well with Dementia’ was echoed in all presentations including that of Ms. Eileen O’Keeffe, a Clinical Nurse Manager in St. Luke’s Home, whose talk on ‘expressing sexuality in residential Dementia care’ provoked much discussion and again challenged participants to consider the person experiencing Dementia in the fullness of their identity and dignity.
A series of masterclasses followed the conference the next day. These continued the practical learning, discussion and debate. Delegates shared their enthusiasm for the conference describing it as ‘enlightening’, ‘really beneficial’ and an opportunity for ‘networking’ and ‘sharing experience’.
The Reverend Sarah Marry, the new Chaplain to Saint Luke’s Home, was present on one of her first days in her new role. She said:
As the new Chaplain to St. Luke’s Home, I was delighted to be part of this ground breaking event and was encouraged by the commitment, enthusiasm and compassion of those working in residential care who help our loved ones to ‘live well with Dementia’.
The 2016 Conference will be on Thursday, 21st April when the keynote speaker will be Professor Brendan McCormack, Head of Division of Nursing, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. There will again be masterclasses on the following day, Friday, 22nd April. Book early to avoid disappointment!