Reusable Learning Objects in Dementia Care

UntitledSarah Goldberg is Associate Professor in older persons care at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests are the acute hospital care of cognitively impaired older patients, particularly those with dementia.

There is a need for more training in dementia care in the acute hospital but, with the pressure on hospital budgets, very little time or resources to deliver such training. Many dementia training materials have been developed in the community, but the needs of people with dementia in the acute hospital are very different to those in the community.

The hospital is a very busy, noisy, crowded environment where multiple healthcare professionals may be questioning the patient; there is little time for staff to get to know the patient, and for the patient to get to know and feel comfortable with staff.  On top of this, memory problems mean that much medical history is forgotten by the patient with dementia and cognitive problems can result in the patient misinterpreting staff behaviours and becoming agitated or distressed.

If staff do not understand the particular cognitive problems experienced by the patient, they may not be able to meet their needs, or label a patient as difficult, when in fact, the problem arises due to a lack of understanding of what is being asked of them.

Bringing together the clinicians expert in dementia care working on the Medical and Mental Health Unit at Queens Medical Centre (Goldberg at al, 2013), family carers, academics and the Health E-Learning and Media (HELM) team at the University of Nottingham, we have developed a series of Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) on the hospital care of people with dementia.

RLOs are focused web-based resources which consist of a mixture of multimedia elements such as audio, text, images and video which engage the student in interactive learning through the use of activities and assessments; each one represents approximately 15-20 minutes of focused learning activity.

There are three RLOs in our series. The first, on dementia and cognitive loss, covers the memory and cognitive problems faced by people with dementia, and how these losses might affect their understanding of the care being given in hospital; there is also a section on mental capacity and decision making.

The second looks at person-centred dementia care; it explores the elements of person centred care, and how this can be delivered on a busy hospital ward. The third RLO focuses on communication and dementia: it looks at why we communicate, the communication problems faced by staff communicating with people with dementia in the hospital, and how to improve communication.

Each RLO uses clips from the award winning documentary ‘Today is Monday’, which shows person-centred care being delivered on the Medical and Mental Health Unit (Gladman et al, 2014).

The RLOs are aimed at registered healthcare professionals, but may also be useful to other staff, students and family carers; they work on smart phones, tablets and personal computers (though do not always work well on Internet Explorer 7).

This work was funded through an Alzheimer’s Society Dissemination Grant.

Access the RLOs here:

Dementia and cognitive loss
Person-centred dementia care
Communication and dementia

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