On Thursday 11th April, the 6th Annual Conference – Dementia: Innovations in Care – hosted by Saint Luke’s Charity, Cork, and organised by the Northridge House Education and Research Centre at the Charity, took place at the Radisson Hotel, Little Island, Cork. It was attended by more than 150 delegates from the acute, disability and residential care sectors along with a range of 20 suppliers to the sector exhibiting their products to their customers.
The opening address was given by the President of Saint Luke’s Charity, Dr Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork. As Bishop Colton noted in his welcoming remarks, in times of fast pacing change, responses are made to address changing needs and this was reflected in the title of the Conference, Innovations in Dementia Care.
Once again, a host of very experienced presenters challenged the assumptions many of us hold about the experience of those with Dementia and how to care for them.
Dr Ciara Macglade talked about the changes over time in our understanding of capacity and consent within a healthcare setting. She summed up by telling delegates that capacity and consent is about ‘context, and choices and consequences, its about maximising freedom and minimising risk’.
Dr. Chris Luke talked about the improvements being introduced in A & E departments in Cork to allow the person with dementia as stress free a journey as possible ending with the simple message of how important it is to simply be kind, to be still and to listen instead of the usual knee jerk feeling that something must be done. He said:
The most important thing you can do is to hold the persons hand for 20 seconds. The transfer of warmth, the touching of a fellow human is astonishingly powerful.
Prof Alice Coffey talked about the development of palliative care guidance documents for persons with dementia produced in conjunction with the Irish Hospice Foundation.
Keynote speaker Professor Jan Dewing asked participants to reject ‘staying the same’ and to examine their own cultures and to be brave and not to be afraid to change to make things better, try different approaches and do this with everyone on board, ignore the hierarchy and develop a flat structure approach to improving life for people with dementia. She challenged listeners to free up some energy, to allow creativity which in turn effects positive change.
She talked about the innovative work of the Donegal Person-Centred Project and how half way through the timescale with another 18 months to go they are witnessing real culture change and real benefits. She acknowledged that it wasn’t easy, required commitment at all levels but that it was worth it.
After lunch presentations by St Luke’s own Celine O Shea on meaningful occupation for people with dementia along with Ms Mary Mannix CNM from the Mercy Hospital on improvements in there for people with dementia highlighted the growing awareness for attention and knowledge in this area.
Finally a refreshing HIQA Inspector for the disability Sector, Ms. Florence Farrelly, reassured the sector that whilst regulations must be understood and implemented, that her main focus was that clients in the disability sector were looked after with love and kindness and quality existences.
The masterclasses which followed the conference the next day continued the practical learning, discussion and debate.
Fellow delegates shared their enthusiasm for the Conference describing it as ‘inspiring’, ‘really beneficial’ and an opportunity for ‘networking’ and ‘sharing experience’.