Mandie Fish is a Nursing Team Leader at Abbotsleigh Mews Residential and Nursing Home. Last October, Mandie won a Compassionate Carer award for her work with the families of residents with dementia, recognised for setting up a Relatives Support Group which is going from strength to strength.
“When someone arrives here, we spend our time looking beyond the dementia to find out about the person who has joined our community. We then develop a lifestyle plan for them that plays to their strengths, their memories and what they like to do,” Mandie said.
She added: “We realised a while ago that we needed to do something for relatives too. So often they meet us with a mixture of guilt at leaving their loved one in the care of someone else, exhaustion after perhaps years of caring for that person themselves, and no real knowledge of what dementia is and the many ways it expresses itself."
Mandie started monthly training meetings for relatives to help them understand dementia and how best to support their loved ones.
As the meetings went on, they evolved to become more of a support group for relatives. Each month 12-15 people attend the group, dipping in and out as they need to. During this time Mandie’s role has changed from trainer to facilitator as relatives share experiences and learn from each other.
Mandie said: “Some of the relatives in the group have become dementia champions, welcoming new relatives and offering a shared experience that people can’t really get elsewhere. We’re beginning to expand the meetings to bring in local experts and I’ve also started talking to another local home to share our experience.”
Home Manager Tracey Cheeseman summed up Mandie’s work with the group: “Mandie gets everyone involved and ensures they feel they’ve been listened to. The group is all about breaking down barriers and building understanding.”
Mandie recommends the approach to other care homes. “Just do it!” she said. “It helps us understand residents better, relatives feel involved and it really adds to person-centred care.”