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The University of Southampton

Improving wellbeing in people with dementia

Allowing people with dementia to actively participate in everyday tasks

11 May 2021

Southampton Spotlight shines a light on the impact our University is having across the world, through the achievements of the individuals that make up our community.

As part of Dementia Action Week 2021 (17-23 May), we take a look at research by Dr Kellyn Lee, Research Fellow in Ageing and Dementia in Health Sciences, who is improving the lives of people affected by dementia by training care home staff in Material Citizenship.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia. Many of these people move to a care home from hospital or from home when they need more support. Often, particularly when moving from hospital, relatives are left to take on the task of dealing with their belongings.

A result of this is that many people in care homes often don’t have access to their own belongings, which are important to make a new place feel like home and support their identity.

Material Citizenship allows people with dementia to use everyday objects so that they feel they are actively participating as individuals.

Dr Kellyn Lee - Research Fellow

As a result, they have a sense of control and purpose, allowing them to do things for themselves and improving their wellbeing.”

Kellyn has developed a training programme for care home staff, which centres on material citizenship. The programme was delivered online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and showcased the benefits of everyday objects being used in the care of people with dementia.

“Allowing someone with dementia to brush someone’s hair or make a cup of tea for a relative, improves their sense of worth and purpose.”

The second phase of the training programme teaches staff the importance of recording how these everyday objects are used in caring for people with dementia, so there is tangible evidence of improvements in health and wellbeing. The hope is that this programme can be used in care homes across the UK.

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