Dementia Teaching and Research Training session co-organised by Unicaf University Zambia

Unicaf University, in collaboration with Huddersfield University and the Ministry of Health in Zambia, organised an 8-day Dementia Teaching and Research Training session in order to improve dementia care in southern Africa.

The training session was held at Kanyama General Hospital (KGH) and was coordinated by Dr Clementina Rooke from Huddersfield University, UK. Of the 21 volunteers who took an active part in the training session, 15 were medical personnel from KGH. The remainder were from the Center for Infectious Diseases in Zambia, the University Teaching Hospital and several volunteers from within the local community. Unicaf University’s very own Assistant Researcher, Ms Emily Kamizi was also present along with Vice-Chancellor, Dr Christine Phiri Mushibwe.

The main aim of the Dementia Teaching and Research Training session was to familiarise the participants with the FITS programme. The FITS programme (Focused Intervention Training and Support) promotes person-centred care and aims to reduce the use of antipsychotic medication which is often used inappropriately to treat dementia patients. Dr Rooke emphasised the need to understand each individual patient as a separate entity. 

“These (antipsychotic) drugs can result in more of a public health problem. This programme, Focus Interventions Training and Support, comes from the need to reduce their use and interventions. [Doctors] won’t just defer to prescribing them now, as we looked at other ways of dealing with dementia.”

“We looked at understanding someone’s own history. (For example), if a patient likes reggae or going for walks, then we can help by understanding what they are going back to within themselves to enjoy or remember.”

As part of their training, the participants were split into groups and were asked to give a presentation based on the UK standard guide on Care and Management of Dementia Patients and how this can be made accessible to patients in Zambia. It was wholeheartedly agreed that this model of caregiving would be the most effective way of helping dementia patients and it was recommended that the hospital adopt this course of treatment.

Currently there is very limited information on the management of dementia patients in Zambia which is why sessions such as the Dementia Teaching and Research Training are essential for health professionals to gather statistics on patient care and health management. Those in training must successfully complete 10 face-to-face taught sessions and five support sessions in order to become Dementia Care Coaches. 

During his closing speech, participant Dr Wilson Mbewe from KGH put forward that changes to patient care, through utilising the FITS programme, will be implemented almost immediately due to the success of the training sessions. Dr Rooke then adopted KGH as a centre for the dementia programme and donated a container to be used as an out-patient clinic. 

“The feedback from the group in Zambia has been very good, “ Dr Rooke added. “People told me they would take a different approach, even to how they deal with their own relatives with dementia. It was humbling.”

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