About the research


This project was about the care of older people living with dementia or complex mental health needs. Studies have shown that outside help can be hard to accept and communicating any worries about support can be difficult for this group of people. Specialist support workers have the potential to have significant impacts in helping this group however our previous research suggests these professionals do not get adequate opportunities to share knowledge, strategies and skills between themselves.  


The aim of this study was to support specialist support workers in developing and sharing their knowledge and skills of ways of reducing resistance to care. This was achieved by creating a bespoke five module training course which draws on on reflective practice and peer-to-peer learning to share best practice in a supportive and encouraging environment. 


The key principles for effectively delivering learning to non-regulated care staff in supporting older people with mental health needs / dementia are… 

  • including a range of different learning styles such as lectures, videos, role-play and interactive quizzes 
  • Dedicated time for reflection with and feedback from colleagues
  • Opportunities to implement learning in practice

The findings suggest that support workers value the opportunity to take part in learning with other support workers, and to undertake training specific to their workforce. Significantly,

learners reported valuing the opportunity to reflect and share learning with support workers from other trusts. They also indicate that completing the course improved learners confidence in dementia care

Learners from the two cohorts who undertook the HOPES training rated it highly for 

  • ‘active learning’,
  •  ‘organisation’ 
  •  ‘teacher-student relationship’

Introduction to the resource

Social care is important to help older adults maintain their independence and lead fulfilling lives. It can be used to support individuals personal care, help identify opportunities for meaningful engagement in activities and provide respite when needed. 

However, not everyone finds receiving help easy. People with memory difficulties or mental health needs face particular challenges. 

People offering support to such individuals may need to adapt their approach. This resource will explain how this might happen.

Who is this resource for?

This resource is aimed at support and care staff who help older people with dementia or mental health needs with social care tasks.

By social care, we mean the support that people may need to live an independent and fulfilling life. This may be personal care, such as bathing, washing and dressing. It may be other help around the home, such as cooking, cleaning and moving around. It may also be community support with leisure pursuits and social participation.

Staff helping such people may be homecare workers, specialist support workers in mental health, outreach workers or other community support staff.

Module 1

Learning objectives

This resources aims to help you:

  • Improve your understanding of why dementia and different mental health difficulties can make it difficult for people to accept social care
  • Develop your knowledge of the foundations for developing a trusting and positive caring relationship
  • Increase your knowledge of good practice when building an older person’s confidence and self-efficacy in social care activities
  • Develop your ability to think more critically about how best to build good working relationships with families and community services
  • Apply new learning in practice
Module 1
Problems engaging with Social Care

Why things go wrong and why we must act

Module 2
Early Priorities

The key stepping stones to cross before the journey can begin

Module 3
Principles of Success

Seven building blocks for successful support work

Module 4
Building Bridges to other Support

Working well with families and wider services