Homecare workers tend to work alone, with limited supervision, training, or opportunities to develop their skills. Dementia champions working across health and social care services might be a valuable source of information, support and advice to homecare staff working directly with people living with dementia. However, the idea of champions is not well established in homecare services.

Project aim

The overall aim of this study is to define, refine and evolve the role of dementia champions in the homecare sector. The research team aim to identify dementia champions working across health and social care settings in England, to learn about their role, including what the role involves (i.e. tasks and responsibilities) and what works and does not work well to support staff in this role. They will then explore how to develop and evolve the dementia champions role in the homecare sector. This will provide learnings relevant for homecare providers in south London. They will ensure the benefit of the knowledge gained from this project will be accessible to homecare managers and care workers by offering staff places on webinars reporting the study findings and producing accessible reports.

dementia care

How the study will be carried out

This is a four-phase study, each phase informs the next. Across all phases of this study, the research team will use a Theory of Change approach to develop a model to identify the key components of the dementia champions role.

  • In Phase 1 they will conduct a narrative review identifying existing literature on dementia champions working in health and social care settings in the UK and internationally, alongside a job description analysis to establish what this role currently entails in homecare in England.
  • In Phase 2, they will conduct qualitative interviews with staff working as, or alongside dementia champions in varied settings to gather perspectives and feedback on this role in greater depth.
  • In Phase 3 they will hold a workshop with relevant stakeholders to co-produce a model of the dementia champions in homecare role.
  • They will then use this model in Phase 4 to conduct qualitative interviews in the homecare sector to further refine and evolve the dementia champions role.

Our collaborators

Across two advisory groups (a stakeholder group and partnership group), the research team will work with people living with dementia and their family carers,  homecare staff (managers and care workers), local authority commissioners and social care leads, Admiral nurses, as well as clinical psychologists, social workers, and organisations including Dementia UK. There is a research involvement lead (who is also a co-applicant) who will ensure meaningful collaboration with these groups.

How patients, carers and the public are involved in the study

The study Partnership Group will include people living with dementia and their family carers/members. This group will be involved in developing interview documents, supporting material preparation for the co-production workshop, analysis and dissemination activities. Three meetings will take place online using Teams or Zoom video calling software and group members will be paid appropriately for their time.

The co-production workshop in Phase 3 will take into account the needs of people living with dementia and their family carers to meaningfully engage in the workshop. This will include splitting into small groups, using visual images in addition to text and scheduling comfort breaks. We will be alert to people’s needs and any indication of fatigue or distress and respond appropriately. A science illustrator will be present to visually scribe what is discussed in the workshop. This will be shared with participants.

Potential benefits of the study

In developing the dementia champions (DCs) in homecare role, the research team will define what the role involves and what is needed to implement, embed, and maintain DCs in the homecare sector. Providing an opportunity for, and upskilling homecare workers to specialise in dementia, could lead to improved staff retention through improved training and status, with more incentive for providers to invest in training for people who intend to make homecare their profession.

Developing the DCs model may provide greater role clarity and peer-support (identified as much-needed components of the job by homecare workers in our previous research). For users of homecare services, the DC role may indirectly contribute to more stable staffing and thereby valued continuity of care.

This work also has the potential to improve care coordination across multidisciplinary services for people living with dementia. Co-producing the dementia champions model will ensure practice is driven by what homecare staff and clients want. By understanding the perceived barriers and facilitators of implementing, embedding, and maintaining the dementia champions role in homecare, we will be able to refine the model and ensure future training addresses these concerns.

Monica Leverton

Dr Monica Leverton

The study is funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research awarded to the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce at King’s College London. It was adopted by NIHR ARC South London Executive in July 2022 and will be completed by December 2023.