The Wellbeing for Life toolkit, created by MacIntyre’s award-winning Dementia Project team, brings together a range of resources to promote awareness and understanding about getting older with a learning disability and living well with dementia.
Following a successful pilot phase with selected geographical areas of MacIntyre, the toolkit was made available to all MacIntyre staff in April 2018.
We spoke to Beth Britton, Freelance Campaigner, Consultant, Writer and Blogger, about her involvement in creating the toolkit and the impact it will have.
How have you been involved with the MacIntyre Dementia Project?
Beth Britton: I’ve worked with MacIntyre since autumn 2013, and when the bid was being prepared for the Dementia Project, I was named as the Project Consultant.
Following MacIntyre being awarded the Department of Health Innovation Funding in February 2016, my role has predominately been to advise and support the Dementia Project in numerous different ways including:
- Working with frontline staff and people being supported by MacIntyre
- Providing an expert, external viewpoint to the project team
- Supporting the communications strategy and social media work
- Extensive writing and reviewing of materials
How have you been involved in the creation of the Wellbeing for Life toolkit?
I was initially asked to write nine modules for the eLearning part of the toolkit, including topics such as changed behaviours, eating and drinking, and life story work. Once all of the toolkit was created, I was then asked to review it and provide feedback to ensure the content would be as informative and educational as possible.
In your opinion, why is there a need for the Wellbeing for Life toolkit?
One of the key elements of MacIntyre’s Department of Health bid was a commitment to create resources to enhance workforce knowledge and development in relation to people with a learning disability and dementia. For accessibility and cost-effectiveness, the most logical way to do this was via a suite of e-learning resources.
Whilst I’m on record as being someone who is sceptical about how impactful e-learning can realistically be when you’re thinking about educating staff in dementia care and support, there is no doubt that, following the review process, we now have a suite of resources that have value and purpose for the health and social care workforce.
These resources also break new ground – to my knowledge such a comprehensive toolkit on ageing with a learning disability (and dementia) isn’t available anywhere else. I would never say that the toolkit alone is enough, as I strongly believe in face-to-face training, but it is undoubtedly an important supporting resource.
Can you tell us a bit about the toolkit?
The toolkit comprises 33 modules split into 6 themes:
- Fit for the Future
- Person Centred Approaches
- Health and Wellbeing
- Good Support
- The Dementia Pathway
- End of Life Care
The first four themes cover everything from wellbeing, epilepsy, falls, eating and drinking, pain, through to accessing healthcare, dignity and respect, and independence.
Then there is theme 5 on supporting a person with dementia ‘The Dementia Pathway’, before you get to Theme 6, which covers many different aspects of End of Life Care including:
- Difficult conversations
- Advance Care Planning
- Care in the last days and hours
- Continued care and support for everyone after a death
The section on End of Life Care deserves highlighting since this is an area of training that we identified required investment before the project began, so to be able to create this suite of resources on a topic we know that staff find extremely difficult is invaluable.
What reaction have you seen from MacIntyre staff when running workshops around the toolkit?
Staff are very enthusiastic about having access to so much additional learning that wouldn’t have been possible without the Department of Health funding.
The toolkit content addresses numerous different aspects of supporting a person with a learning disability as they age, and I think this diversity, and the ability to pick and mix through the topics, has made the toolkit a very popular and frequently used resource.
Which themes in the toolkit, if any, are the most important?
The most important theme is unique to each staff member. Staff make their choice based upon the needs of the person they are supporting, and any specific difficulties they are encountering at that time, or knowledge they want to gain in anticipation of future eventualities (for example a person’s dementia progressing, or someone nearing the end of their life).
The really positive aspect of the toolkit is that with so many topics covered, there is something for everyone.
How have you seen the toolkit put into practice?
Every roundtable learning event I’ve run has been focused around various topics from the toolkit, so for the staff attending to be able to complete modules in preparation for attending a roundtable, or indeed to re-enforce their learning afterwards, has made the toolkit a real go-to resource that feels really relevant.
In addition, when a staff member encounters a difficulty, and perhaps doesn’t have a face-to-face training session or event upcoming, they have the option to dive into the toolkit and try to find answers at any time of the day or night. So long as they have internet access they can make use of the toolkit, which of course is one of the great advantages of online learning resources.
What positive implications do you expect the toolkit to have?
I believe the toolkit is a first for people working in learning disability services and indeed dementia services by bringing so much knowledge relating to ageing and best practice care and support together in one place. It contains a lot of really practical, useful information that is presented in a clear and understandable way.
I imagine the toolkit may inspire other organisations to create similar in-house resources on different aspects of social care support, funding permitting, in the future. Most of all, however, I hope that it enables anyone accessing it to feel really motivated and excited about their work and the possibility to improve their practice.
Do you have a question for Beth? Ask us on Twitter @bethyb1886 and @DementiaLD.