Research study: Dementia Care Mapping

January 21, 2021

Researchers have been carrying out a randomised controlled trial for several years to test the effectiveness of a tool called Dementia Care Mapping (DCM), which is used in care homes to improve care for people living with dementia.

The Centre for Dementia Research at Leeds Beckett University (LBU), which aims to improve the care for people living with dementia, is to be highlighted by one of the key funders of health research in the country - the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

The current study was part of a UK research trial that looked at whether DCM, when implemented by care home staff in the UK, led to reductions in resident agitation, neuropsychiatric symptoms, use of anti-psychotics, use of healthcare resources and improvements in quality of life. The research team worked with colleagues from the University of Leeds, the University of Exeter and the University of Bradford.

Dementia Care Mapping works by asking staff to put themselves in the place of residents, through watching and assessing their experiences, and feeding those back to the staff team who then develop action plans to improve residents’ experiences and care.

The DCM-EPIC Study found that, although Dementia Care Mapping is widely used in care homes across the UK, it doesn’t lead to beneficial outcomes for care home residents when compared against usual care and it isn’t providing good value for money. Researchers found that the standard implementation of DCM, which relies on care home staff to implement it, was patchy and vulnerable to issues such as staff and manager turnover, care home staff not having the confidence or skills to lead changes in practice and inadequate staffing and funds.

Professor Claire Surr, from the School of Health and Community Studies at LBU, who led the research, said, ‘The findings suggest that even with established tools like DCM - putting them into practice can be extremely challenging. Even with the additional support to implement DCM offered within the trial, the majority of care home managers were unable to support staff to use DCM regularly. This was due to lack of time, money and staff with the right skills and confidence use DCM. Managers were often unable, unwilling, or needed further support to prioritise use of DCM in the light of other demands on resources.

‘We are delighted that the NIHR has picked up on these important findings and has chosen to highlight them on their website and share them with organisations who can use them to inform future practice and design of research in care homes.

Dr Rachael Kelley, Research Fellow in the Centre for Dementia Research and author of the paper about the DCM-EPIC Study, said, ‘The findings are important because around 70% of care home residents have dementia, and they can have complex needs which staff can struggle to meet. We need evidence-based ways of supporting care home staff to provide people with dementia with high quality care. Knowing that DCM can be difficult to implement in its current form, and may not lead to benefits for residents, is really important information for care homes when deciding whether to invest time and money on implementing DCM. The findings are also useful for those who train people to deliver DCM, and for designing similar care improvement tools for care homes, as they suggest ways in which these tools need to be designed to improve their effectiveness.’

Visit Leeds Beckett University website for more insights into The Centre for Dementia Research and visit Dr Rachael Kelley’s blog about the findings of the study and more information on Dementia Care Mapping.


Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards: Find out more about those shortlisted for the Dementia Care Award. Here, they talk about what motivates them and how they’ve had to adapt through the pandemic.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Support care workers in need during COVID-19. Donate to the Care Workers' Charity Emergency Fund. Donate