HMT partners University in two new care home based research projects

The Healthcare Management Trust (HMT) has announced it has entered into a partnership with Swansea University to fund two research projects as part of its commitment to improving the quality of life for people living with dementia.

HMT have pledged £126,000 to fund the research aimed at improving the care and wellbeing of people with dementia living in a care home setting.

HMTHMT’s Chief Executive, Tony Barrett explained, “We are committed to funding research projects that result in tangible findings that can be integrated into the practical settings of our Care Homes. These projects with Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences will provide rigorous research evidence and tools to support practical interventions which improve the wellbeing and care of people with dementia living in care homes.

"We are very excited to be working with the University as part of our network of wellbeing and charitable activities to support the community based around our hospital in central Swansea – HMT Santa Maria. As part of our commitment to the area, the hospital will be relocating to a modern new facility to serve the local population from Spring 2017.”

Mental Wellbeing

Mental health conditions are highly prevalent among older people in care homes, but are often not recognised, diagnosed or treated. Ageing with good mental health can make a key difference in ensuring that life is enjoyable and fulfilling. NICE guidelines published in 2013, suggest mental wellbeing of older people in care homes should be a higher priority. They state older people in care homes must have their mental health needs recognised and have access to appropriate services.

Under the supervision of Dr Charles Musselwhite, Associate Professor at Swansea University’s  Centre for Innovative Ageing, the project objectives are: 

  • To assess mental health issues of older people in a sample of care homes;
  • To examine in-depth how the mental wellbeing of older people is maintained;
  • To examine in-depth how the mental health needs of older people are met;
  • To create a new mental health scale for older people who live in care homes, taking into account their needs and aspirations; and
  • To offer recommendations for best practice with regards to assessing and maintaining mental wellbeing and improving the mental health of older people in care homes.

Intergenerational Practice

This research project recognises that, even in a care setting surrounded by others, older people can experience social isolation as broader networks and social connections with other generations change, or past roles and identities fall away. For those with dementia, such transformations can be particularly profound and distressing. A challenge for care home staff is how to foster these connections in order to reduce stress and preserve a sense of individual well-being and belonging among residents, and to provide opportunities for improving understanding and communication between older people with dementia and younger generations.

Under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Hillcoat-Nallétamby, Associate Professor, at Swansea University’s Centre for Innovative Ageing, the project will bring together older residents’ with mild to moderate dementia with younger people from their community to share activities based around culinary traditions and food preparation.

The project will seek to answer the following questions:

  • In the context of dementia-based care, what role can intergenerational interventions play in enhancing residents’ well-being?
  • Do intergenerational intervention models provide an opportunity to change public perception about dementia as a “problem”?
  • What insights and guidelines can be drawn from the research to inform practice innovation across other dementia-focused care settings?

Dr Musselwhite said: “Too often older people’s mental health and wellbeing goes neglected, especially if they are in care home settings. But depression and anxiety are not normal parts of an ageing mind and need to be dealt with the same as any other age group in any other setting.

“Care home settings can provide an excellent healthy environment for older people if the staff can identify mental health issues and offer appropriate support. With this HMT PhD studentship we will be able to help develop tools for staff and residents of care homes, along with families and friends of residents, that can help assess older people’s mental health and identify how to improve the care home environment and support for them.

“We are delighted that HMT are supporting this PhD studentship and we have an excellent student, Shauna McGee, who has an international research background in mental wellbeing and ageing having worked with us here at Swansea University’s Centre for Innovative Ageing, in The Centre for Science, Society and Citizenship in Rome, The Netwell Centre in Ireland, and the Mackintosh School in Glasgow, and we very much look forward to starting the project in January!”

Further details of each research project funded by HMT can be found at: http://hmt-uk.org/funding-research/.

Further details on Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences can be found at: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/humanandhealthsciences/.