The Centre of Dementia Research has been working for several years on a randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a tool called Dementia Care Mapping (DCM). DCM is a tool that is used in care homes to improve care for people living with dementia. It works by asking staff to spend time observing care home resident’s experiences and feeding those back to the staff team who then develop action plans to improve residents’ experiences and care.

We recently heard that the findings of the study have been chosen to feature in an alert by the National Institute of Health Research – one of the key funders of health research in England. They chose to do this for our study (called the DCM-EPIC Study) because they felt the findings were really important to highlight and should be used to inform future practice.

There are several important messages that the alert will help to share. Our study found that although DCM 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. Importantly, we also explored why that was. We found that standard implementation of DCM, which relies on care home staff to implement it, was highly variable. Most care homes in the study were not able to implement DCM in the way it is currently designed. There were lots of barriers to implementation, including high levels of staff and manager turnover, and staff and managers who did not feel sufficiently skilled or supported to implement DCM.

All of this is really important information for care homes when deciding whether or not to use DCM, for those who train care staff to deliver DCM, and for the design and implementation of similar care improvement interventions in care homes. The findings suggest that support, engagement and training for care home managers and staff should be given a far greater focus when introducing similar care improvement tools into care homes in the future. We are delighted that the NIHR has picked up on these important findings and has chosen to highlight them on their website and with key organisations who can use them to inform future practice.

The research team, which was led by the Centre for Dementia research, included colleagues from many Universities including the University of Leeds, the University of Exeter and the University of Bradford, who all worked incredibly hard to produce these findings. We have already developed further research projects within the team and are looking forward to working together to undertake lots more research that can help to improve care for people living with dementia and their families. Watch this space!

You can find the NIHR alert for the study here.

There are links to some journal articles from the trial at the bottom of the NIHR alert or here, here and here.

Dr Rachael Kelley

Reader / School Of Health

Rachael is a Reader in Dementia Research and qualified mental health nurse. Her research focuses on improving care for people living with dementia and their families, predominantly in healthcare settings. She has expertise in qualitative and quantitative research, particularly ethnography.

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