Care Homes Step Up Search For ‘Dementia Utopia’

Team members from five family-owned care homes in Dorset and Hampshire have shared their latest insights on how people with dementia can be helped to live well.

Colten Care’s third annual Dementia Utopia conference brought more than 80 colleagues together at the AFC Bournemouth stadium to discuss and celebrate best practice, new approaches and success stories.

A central strand of the event was progress with a new dementia strategy involving the specialist input of Admiral Nurse Kay Gibson, appointed by Colten Care a year ago in partnership with the charity Dementia UK.

In her presentation, Kay explained how new approaches in the homes had already helped to cut the use of anti-psychotic medication by more than a third.

At the same time, more and more Colten Care staff – currently 1,537 people or 83% of the entire workforce – had attended information sessions and become ‘Dementia Friends’.

Kay said: “We have ensured that basic dementia care awareness is available to all staff, whatever their role, so they are better able to understand the needs of people and families living with dementia.  It is truly a ‘whole team’ approach. At the same time, we are giving more dedicated input and advanced training to relevant colleagues in our specialist dementia care settings. It’s all about nurturing innovation in relationship-centred approaches to care. My role is also to reach out to the wider community with resources and information.”

The Dorset homes giving presentations were The Aldbury in Poole, Fernhill in Longham and Newstone House in Sturminster Newton. The Hampshire homes were St Catherines View in Winchester and Linden House in Lymington.

Insights included how residents responded to joining gardening clubs for ‘horticultural therapy’, how ‘rummage boxes’ containing different items can prompt reminiscence and conversation, and how a residents’ choir was fostering enjoyment and interaction.  New approaches to assessing nutritional needs and the dining experience were also discussed. Another cognitive breakthrough featured was a ‘magic table’ developed in The Netherlands that uses gentle projected lights to prompt people’s movement, sensations and relaxation.

Kay added: “Not only were we able to provide information sessions at the event, it was an ideal chance for homes to showcase to each other what they’ve been doing. Staff found it really helpful to listen to other homes’ experiences and will now aim to put into operation the good ideas others were discussing.”

Also presenting was Rachel Johnstone from Dementia UK who stressed the importance of attention to detail in transforming good care into great care.

Colten Care’s Operations Director Elaine Farrer said: “The presentations from the five homes showed how our team members go above and beyond every single day ensuring each of our residents receives a positive, individual approach to their care. The whole event was enjoyable and informative with plenty of opportunity to meet new colleagues and learn from each other. As well as the amazing presentations and the chance to share best practice, there were interactive learning and brainstorming sessions focused around all aspects of dementia care at Colten Care. It was an ideal chance to discuss how the Colten promise of “Supporting you to overcome the challenges associated with dementia” is really making a difference to the lives of residents, their families and staff.”

Conference delegates watched a short film featuring Joyce and Gwen, two residents at The Aldbury, discussing their care. To view the film, visit:

In a feedback survey, 95% of respondents said the day had exceeded their expectations and 100% said the topics under discussion were “interesting, helpful and relevant”.

For more information on dementia care and to connect with Admiral Nurse Kay Gibson, visit













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