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East of England Dementia Care Specialist champions UK research

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A care home in Hertfordshire has joined an important network, bringing opportunities for staff and residents to improve lives through research.

Caroline Inch, Head of Dementia for B&M Care Homes in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, signed the care home where she works up for the ENRICH (Enabling Research in Care Homes) scheme after speaking with an NHS research nurse at a dementia conference. By joining ENRICH, Caroline is giving her residents and staff the chance to take part in research to help make positive changes to the lives of those who live and work in care homes. She said:

“We’re very proud to be joining the ENRICH network. We must give people opportunities to enhance their lives through research.

“I’ve always been passionate about empowering our residents and the team, who are equally important, to have opportunities to affect change and being part of research can fuel this.”

ENRICH, run by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) provides funding and support for care homes to support research. There are many different types of research, including testing new medications or therapies, for example in art and music, or giving views, for example in surveys or interviews, to help improve ways to care for residents.

Caroline has worked in health and social care for 28 years, going from a carer’s role to the position she holds today, while also finding time to obtain a first-class honours degree in dementia studies with Bradford University. She said:

“I love working with the elderly and it’s a privilege to be able to care for them. Our residents come to live and flourish so we need to give them the best service and care, and it’s their home, so their input is paramount.

“They should be given opportunities, be empowered, and supported to make choices about their care, and have full input, not just tokenistic input, and as carers, managers and sector leaders we need to ensure this is happening in our care homes.”

Throughout her career, Caroline has always understood the importance of research and already uses it to improve the lives of the residents she cares for:

“We’re making our care evidence based, using research and best practice to drive improvements. For example, using colour to create a calm and immersive environment, and undertaking projects on the benefits of music therapy”.

Caroline also feels strongly about enabling staff to make a difference, to their residents’ lives and their own working lives. She said:

“By making sure we’re skilled, supported, mentored, we’re able to provide the best person-centred care, and working with the teams in our home to understand the benefits of projects like ENRICH. Giving the team the tools to do their job and being part of these all-important initiatives supports our teams to deliver innovative care.”

Ultimately, Caroline feels all care homes should consider joining ENRICH:

“If you’re thinking, ‘we have to have research in our strategy but how do we access it?’. Well, the answer’s through ENRICH. It’s a very simple process, just a couple of forms that need to be completed, and you will be supported throughout the process - you’re not on your own.”

“Research shouldn’t just be happening in hospitals or clinical settings. We have the lives of all these incredible people in our hands, and we have a duty to provide the best care, so let’s get research in care homes because all these amazing people need to have a chance to be part of community initiatives, accessing new treatments, studies, and innovations - care homes are for living.”

To find out more about ENRICH visit www.enrich.nihr.ac.uk or email our Sue, local ENRICH Manager, at sue.coburn@nihr.ac.uk.