The behaviours that dementia care home staff in South Africa find challenging: An exploratory study

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Abstract

Background

Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia are often the reasons for moving to a care home. Care staff, often with limited dementia training, may have to support residents with distressed behaviour on a daily basis. Evidence about the support of residents with distressed or challenging behaviour in the South African context is lacking. This exploratory study aimed to gain an understanding of what care home staff perceived to be distressed behaviour, their coping strategies and how they learned to work with residents with behavioural symptoms of dementia.

Methods

An exploratory study was conducted among 17 participants working in four care homes in the Western Cape province of South Africa in 2014. Semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded. Data were analysed thematically.

Findings

Findings reflected the literature with regard to examples of behavioural symptoms of people with dementia that staff find challenging to manage. Overall, the majority of staff reported holding positive feelings about working with people with dementia. All preferred interpersonal approaches to manage distressed behaviour above medication although a small minority noted the use of medication in some cases. Dementia training was considered by most participants as an unmet need.

Conclusion

This exploratory study identified care home workers’ desires for training about dementia and their preferences for interpersonal as opposed to pharmacological approaches to managing residents’ distressed behaviour. The legacy of race and cultural perspectives in South Africa appears to still influence care practice and provision. Staff commitment, their interest in advancing their practice and their aspirations to offer more person-centred care were evident. Dementia training was identified as potentially helpful to care home staff who manage residents’ distressed behaviour. Training should be developed in South Africa to promote good practice.

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