TX: Tuesday 8 and 15 December, BBC2 9pm – 2 x 60mins
In the next 20 years over a million of us will have dementia, yet dementia care is something we are often reluctant to think about. Gerry Robinson, whose father had the disease when he died, returns to our screens in a new series that highlights this important issue.
Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes? – a two-part documentary co-produced by The Open University – follows Gerry as he visits a number of struggling care homes, examining the way they are run in a bid to improve conditions for residents.
Gerry Robinson said: “I'm hoping the programme will make people realise that, in dementia care homes, it isn't the quality of the curtains or the colour of the carpet or even the fact that it doesn’t smell that are important. Those aren't the things that matter. What matters is the loving care that is given.
“When people are angry and frustrated and they shout, sometimes strike out, that is not the dementia. That's the frustration that goes with not being heard. Our assumption is that dementia has all these characteristics. It really, really doesn’t.”
Profit margins for care homes in the private sector can be as high as 30 per cent and, with a quarter of a million people living in care homes in the UK, the care industry is worth around £6.5 billion. The time Gerry spends in dementia care homes makes him wonder whether good care has to be expensive and equally whether the drive to make money results in the best care for residents: “If you run a home very successfully then the economics also work for you because people want to leave their loved ones there. I have a problem with the profit motive only when the profit is earned as a result of skimping and cutting back. If the profit is earned because the home is full because people want to be there, because people making the decisions can see that it is a happy experience for those that are there, I have no problem with that at all. In fact I think that kind of service, that kind of caring should be rewarded.”
Dr Carol Komaromy, a senior lecturer in health studies and one of the Open University academic advisors to the programme, said: “People who live in care homes for older people are often hidden from the public view. Coping with the complex care demands of people with dementia requires a high level of skill and compassion and yet carers are often underpaid and the value of what they do remains unrecognised. The programme highlights the need for specialist training and the difference this can make to the experience of living with dementia. It is a sad indictment of society that providing care resources for people with dementia seems to have a low level of priority. More than this, as the series shows, there is so much more that could be done even within limited resources.
“I would argue that a culture of care would need to support paid carers in a direct engagement with the needs of people with dementia and recognise that they are also people with diverse emotional needs who need to feel supported and valued. While it is clearly the case that protocols and resources need to be in place for this to happen, homes need to shift to a culture of care that places people with dementia at the centre. A key element in making this happen is education and training.”
The Open University has produced a free booklet to accompany the programmes. Centred on the life story of one woman with dementia, it explores challenges and opportunities for good practice, from a diverse range of perspectives of people involved in dementia care. The aim of the booklet is to encourage people to ask: What is good quality dementia care? How can it be provided? What resources are needed? What organisational cultures are needed to achieve this type of care? To order a copy, call 0845 366 8018 or visit www.open2.net/dementia.
Notes to editors
Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes is a co-production between The Open University and the BBC.
The Executive Producer is Dinah Lord; BBC Commissioning Executive for the Open University is Emma De’Ath; The Broadcast Learning Executive for The Open University is Kirsten Dwight; The Open University academics for the series are Dr Carol Komaromy, Dr Robin Asby and Penny Marrington.
The OU and the BBC have been in partnership for forty years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak-time programmes with a broad appeal, to encourage wider participation in learning.