Award-winning Dagenham carers talk about work with dementia sufferers

Placing a loved one who suffers from dementia into a care home is for most an extremely difficult decision.

What can make that decision a little bit easier is knowing the care they will receive is as good as it can be and that their family member will be treated with both compassion and dignity.

Two senior carers from Park View Care Home, in Morland Road, Dagenham have won accolades at this year’s Great British Care Awards – Steve Addis for best carer trainer in the UK and Richard Richards for best carer in London.

There are currently around 800,000 people with dementia in the UK but as we face an aging population, in the coming years and decades dementia care will be relied upon more and more.

By 2021, there will be more than a million people suffering from a form of the disease, the Alzheimer’s Society predicts.

Steve began work as a carer 11 years ago after being made redundant from a job with the German showjumping team.

The now 59-year-old took to his new and rather different role with enthusiasm and uses his experience and skills to train new carers at the home.

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He says treating each dementia sufferer as an individual is key to ensuring their wellbeing.

“You can’t look at all people with dementia the same,” Steve tells the Post. “I think that’s a mistake that is often made.

“Two people can be diagnosed with same condition but need very different care, so you need to spend time with that person to learn how they respond and what works best for them.”

Steve says a large part of being a carer is offering reassurance to the residents.

“When someone has dementia they can get frustrated because they can’t express what they want or they get confused. We are there to reassure them, calm them if needed and listen.”

Good training for carers is also very important, he says.

“There are certain inherent values many good carers have but there are a lot of skills that need to be taught.”

Richard, 31, has been a carer at Park View since he was 18. He currently works in the Oaks, a section of Park View dedicated to people with dementia between the ages of 18 and 65.

Despite common perceptions, dementia can affect anyone at any age and while the full reasons for the onset of the condition are not known, links have been made with drug and alcohol use. The disease can also be hereditary.

Richard’s caring role is similar to Steve’s, but, he explains, activities can vary.

“We try and do things that appeal to younger people, like barbecues and days out,” he says.

Richard adds that family members can find it extremely tough to see a loved one suffer dementia at such a young age and part of his job is to support them.

“Many people assume it’s only elderly people who are affected by dementia and it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact your husband, wife or child is suffering,” he explains.

“Many people also feel very guilty that their family member is in a home. I’ll be there to offer reassurance and advice.”

Asked why he thinks he was nominated for the carer award Richard replies: “I guess I put all my effort into making sure that the people I care for are as happy and comfortable as they can be. I treat them with dignity and am patient and understanding.”