This section contains professional development resources to help you to reflect and use learning in your practice.
Social work role
Social workers have an important role in ensuring that people with dementia and their loved ones receive good support. Social workers need to follow the five principles of good practice on which the practice guidance is based.
- Start with the person
- Maintain a relationship
- Involve support networks
- Uphold people’s rights
- Work with ongoing change
Social work practice must be lawful, helpful and ethical. Practice improvement is a career-long endeavour that includes continuous professional development. As social workers gain experience, knowledge and skills, they can work with more complex situations – with more happening, higher risk, more uncertainty and more conflict. This requires continual critical reflection to ensure ethical practice, including reflection on values and beliefs.
Support should be available to social workers to enable critical reflective practice, the use of good evidence and information, multi-agency work, and resilience. This includes supervision, learning and development opportunities, practice forums, advice and appraisal.
These top tips are based on suggestions from social workers who attended workshops informing the The Department of Health manual (2015) for supporting adults who have dementia:
- Social workers should have a reasonable knowledge of the most commonly diagnosed types of dementia, and of how each form is likely to impact upon a person.
- Being able to support the person and their family to understand the typical progression of their form of dementia over time is an important skill.
- A timeline can be helpful – work to strengths and identify how the person’s life in the future can still reflect their lifestyle, hobbies, interests and preferences.
- Be mindful and sensitive over timing and readiness for these conversations following diagnosis. Work at the person’s pace. Consider making links with common reactions to loss.
- Build and maintain relationships – form a ‘triangle of care’ between yourself, the person with dementia and their carer.
- Gain a rich picture of the person which encompasses a sense of who they are and not just their perceived care needs. Gathering a person’s history when they are unable to give it themselves is central to offering support.
- Adults with dementia sometimes show behaviour which is very difficult to interpret, or that may be easy to misinterpret. Often someone’s history (employment, life events and so on) holds the clues.
- Consider how other factors intersect with the person’s experience of living with dementia – their gender, race, sexual orientation, religious belief and other protected characteristics. Identify specific strategies to promote their human rights.
- Determine together how best to assess and review the person’s needs and outcomes on the occasions when their dementia prevents them from having the ability to fully participate in this process.
- Use this information to underpin decisions that are robust and defendable.
In 2011, NHS Education for Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Social Services Council produced a framework that sets out levels of knowledge, skills and behaviours for practitioners working with people with dementia.
The levels are concerned with levels of responsibility in relation to working with people with dementia which will vary greatly across organisations and sectors. Each level defines the expertise, specific to their role in relation to dementia, that a worker must have
- The ‘Dementia Informed Practice Level’ provides the baseline knowledge and skills required by all staff working in health and social care settings including a person’s own home – this corresponds to the pre-qualification level of the Professional Capabilities Framework
- The ‘Dementia Skilled Practice Level’ describes the knowledge and skills required by all staff that have direct and/or substantial contact with people with dementia and their families and carers – this corresponds to the social worker level of the Professional Capabilities Framework
- The ‘Enhanced Dementia Practice Level’ outlines the knowledge and skills required by health and social services staff that have more regular and intense contact with people with dementia, provide specific interventions, and/or direct/manage care and services – this corresponds to the experienced social worker level of the Professional Capabilities Framework
The Knowledge and Skills Statement for Social Workers in Adult Services, which sets out what social workers need to know and do when they have completed their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment includes:
Direct work with individuals and families
Social workers need to be able to work directly with individuals and their families through the professional use of self, using interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence to create relationships based on openness, transparency and empathy. They should know how to build purposeful, effective relationships underpinned by reciprocity. They should be able to communicate clearly, sensitively and effectively, applying a range of best evidence-based methods of written, oral and non-verbal communication and adapt these methods to match the person’s age, comprehension and culture. Social workers should be capable of communicating effectively with people with specific communication needs, including those with learning disabilities, dementia, people who lack mental capacity and people with sensory impairment. They should do this in ways that are engaging, respectful, motivating and effective, even when dealing with conflict – whether perceived or actual – anger and resistance to change. Social workers should have a high level of skill in applying evidence-based, effective social work approaches to help service users and families handle change, especially where individuals and families are in transition, including young people moving to adulthood, supporting them to move to different living arrangements and understanding the impact of loss and change.
We have created a document for social workers working with people with dementia. This document outlines how the social work practice with carers resources can be used to evidence learning and development to satisfy the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).
Critical reflection tool
The Critical Reflection tool enables you to reflect on experiences of working with people with dementia and to turn these into learning that can be used to improve practice.
Action planning tool
The Action Planning tool enables you to identify actions to use learning to make a difference in your practice.
This example CPD record can be used to record your Continuous Professional Development activities and may be used as your record of evidence of CPD for re-registration with your regulatory body.