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On my first trip to the Quality Forum, I was keen to get as much out of the experience as I possibly could.

For the past few years I have worked in quality improvement with most of my focus being in the acute care setting, but before this much of my experience was in residential care. So when I read about the Blanket of Care session, my interest was definitely piqued! At the Forum I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the presenting groups was from Scotland. Being from Scotland myself, this was sounding better all the time.

Caring for those with dementia is such a challenge and hearing about the ways the groups are trying to make their life more meaningful was very interesting. The use of social robots and personalized music in residential care are two great ways to help improve quality of life and increase the resident interaction with others. It can be very lonely for residents, especially those with dementia, who may also be having some aggressive outbursts. I loved the cat that was passed around for us to try – there is something very calming about stroking its fur, and it was so lifelike. I like cats well enough but changing the cat litter, the scratching, the feeding etc are not so much fun. So give me a robot cat any day! I know in residential care setting other residents can be allergic to cats or just do not want them roaming around, so this is definitely a great solution.

The personalized music also emphasized the importance of seeing residents with dementia as individuals. I have seen firsthand the calming effect that music can have on residents, in particular one who can be aggressive. It is important to reduce the use of antipsychotics and this is such a good strategy. The results from the presenting team were showing a reduction in agitation by 85% – WOW!

Finally, I obviously really liked hearing from the Scottish presenters on work that is happening there. It made me feel right at home. The strategies they are using to improve memory, so that those with dementia can stay at home longer, is where efforts should be focussed. Staying in our own home is what we all want. I know the UK has a national strategy for caring for those with dementia, and a program using occupational therapists (OT) to do in-home rehabilitation is showing good results. I think we can definitely learn a thing or two from the Scottish experience (but I could be a bit biased).

Overall I found the session interesting and informative. Even though I don’t work closely with people with dementia any more it was a good reminder that even though we can’t cure it there are many ways of improving quality of life for those who have it. Treating them as individuals is the key.

About the blog author:

Morag Green was trained as a nurse and midwife in Scotland before coming to Canada in 1991. She has worked in rural areas, including First Nations villages, and urban areas in maternity, public health, PAR, residential care, and now as a quality improvement consultant in Kamloops for Interior Health.