Inside CQC: Alison Murray

Alison Murray, Head of Inspection at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) discusses the regulator’s recent work around dementia and what’s coming next.

If, like me, you have spent your career in the health and social care sector, you will have witnessed the change in our understanding of dementia. Thanks to brilliant researchers and people and their families sharing their first-hand experience, today we are more able than ever to support people to live well with dementia.

At CQC, to ensure we are making informed judgements about care quality, we’re committed to supporting our own staff to remain informed of evolving best practice and innovation in dementia care.

Regular readers of ‘Inside CQC’ may remember my colleague Sue Howard’s column from November 2018. Sue shared that we have introduced ‘areas of interest’ groups. These represent the services and activities that we regulate and are designed to help inspectors develop their knowledge and then be equipped to share this with colleagues in their local areas.

One of these areas of interest focuses on dementia, bringing together over 90 inspectors and inspection managers who are passionate about the issue. I sponsor the group as a Head of Inspection. We’re already seeing the impact the group is having; we’ve been developing learning materials and creating spaces for reflective conversations and joint learning about inspecting services supporting people with dementia. This has built confidence and enabled inspectors to advise others in their local areas with queries and inspections.

In January, we held a conference for the group to bring together all our learning from the past year and to hear from the people campaigning and innovating for better dementia care. We kicked things off by listening to Jan, an Expert by Experience, talk about her experience of caring for her mother who lived with dementia. It’s a story we’re all too familiar with: Jan’s mother, in her late 80s, was living a happy life with dementia but following a fall her health and quality of life deteriorated quickly. Jan talked about the challenges of caring for someone with dementia: the patience required to support someone whose behaviour changes; the impact on her family, social and working life; and the interactions with hospital staff treating her mum’s physical injuries, who did not always have a good understanding of dementia.

These are real challenges faced by people living with dementia and their families and adult social care has a powerful role to play in supporting people through them. There are some great examples of small changes providers can make that have a big impact on the people they support and their staff’s confidence to do their job.

For example, Alzheimer’s Society has developed and trialled ‘Lift the Lid’ workshops-in-a-box to help staff challenge perceptions around sex and intimate relationships for people living with dementia. As a country, we’re not very good at talking about sex and intimacy in any setting, never mind care homes. It’s great to see initiatives like this one that help providers feel confident supporting people to maintain romance, sex and relationships – with dementia or not. We have just published our own guidance on relationships and sexuality in care settings, answering the frequently asked questions providers have about meeting the sexuality-related needs of people who receive support and helping to understand the risks (you can find this in the Guidance for Providers section of our website).

There’s also exciting work happening to promote using music to support people living with dementia. Research shows that music helps to reduce distressing symptoms of dementia, including anxiety and agitation. Music for Dementia 2020 aims to make music available to everyone living with dementia by 2020 and has a host of resources on its website to help providers and carers make music part of life.

Technology is making this easier to put into practice. The BBC Music Memories website makes it simple to find songs and music that people living with dementia can reconnect with. Just pick a genre and decade and start listening.

I hope that’s given you a taste of what we’re seeing. We’re always keen to hear about what services are doing themselves, so please get in touch with @CareQualityComm to share examples on Twitter.

Alison Murray is Head of Inspection at the Care Quality Commission. Share your thoughts and feedback on Alison’s column in the comments section here. Not a member? Sign up today.

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