Innovation in Dementia services across the city of Leeds


Today we had our second gathering of the Assisted Living Leeds | Phase 2 | Dementia Group. The first meeting had inspired us to think big and to be ambitious – what could the Phase 2 developments bring for dementia services for people with dementia and their carers? Today’s meeting hosted by Tim Sanders (the Leeds Dementia Services commissioner in LCC and NHS), took us a few steps forward, beginning to reach under the surface of what each service partner could bring and how we could begin to focus our group ambitions practically and start doing something…

– research what others are doing in this space

We discussed the importance of not reinventing the wheel and quickly brainstormed similar innovations across the country and elsewhere in the city.
The Dementia Centre at Stirling University was quickly put on our list of places that may be able to share and inspire some good thinking.

– research what services and people in Leeds need
We had some dementia carer knowledge in the room already and experiences were shared. We highlighted the need to see how current initiatives are doing… eg. Memory Support Workers Team, Carers Leeds, Memory Nurse teams, Alzheimer’s Society and find out what their current challenges and needs might be.

– research what the general community in Leeds is doing to be dementia friendly
We knew of different initiatives like the Dementia Friendly performances and workshops at WYPlayhouse and the Dementia Friends training, different reminiscence projects and companies like Premier Private Hire making their services dementia friendly.

– research what a dementia friendly building/space is
We highlighted: the need to make spaces accessible for people with dementia and not stressful, disorientating places; the importance of colour/contrast, good lighting, non-reflective surfaces; dementia friendly interior design and making the spaces friendly and approachable in terms of people and atmosphere.

Framing the Problem
We discussed the currently existing services and support already available online and through apps and how we can utilise them… not everything has to be dependent on a building. So what can we do before the building? How we can use and start making more use of the online digital spaces like twitter, facebook and the internet. We mentioned the opportunity to work in the ‘open’ arena and look at ODILeeds approach to innovation and the work of GDS Government Digital Service especially their digital design principles.

Agreeing our terms of reference
This was a new descriptor to me, but basicly it meant defining the groups remit, areas of focus and it’s why. This is something that is being collaborated on and the group are all feeding back on an initial proposal.

The group all gave their time voluntarily today, but we looked at where funding might come from in the future to enable work that we might pursue in the future. It was clear that the digital opportunities may be a little more easier to fund with mHabitat and Leeds Beckett both pointing towards funding routes through them.

So why am I giving my time to this and blogging about it? 
Having been a family dementia carer for 6 years and having managed to keep my father in his own home for that whole period I know how much work it takes to make it work, (lots of gaps between services for families to fill). It seems to be a generally held experience by others too that this pressure on families is too much and could be relieved significantly with innovations that digital can bring… giving new ways of working and communicating for services, community and families effected by the condition. The elephant in the room is that some people diagnosed with dementia go into care homes too quickly causing them unnecessary stress, people are not always supported adequately to optimise the life that they could have, very positively living with dementia. This is going to take a lot of group effort… but there are a growing number of services in Leeds who are ‘on it’. I look forward to embracing the ‘open’ agenda and seeing how this all moves forward. The need to improve dementia services is too great to keep it to ourselves… please get in touch if you are interested/would like to ask any questions.

I work for the Stick People as a service design and innovation consultant.