- Posted by admin
- On 16th April 2018
We caught up with Karen Clayton – from pioneering practical dementia products company, Find Memory Care – to discuss the history, present and future of this remarkable firm.
Karen has been with the firm for nearly nine years and was struck from the outset with the sense of purpose and determination that drives everyone who works there. Knowing the huge impact that is made by every product they put into a care home, hospital or care facility keeps them all motivated to deliver the best possible products, until such time as a cure is found.
Following her first experience of someone with Alzheimer’s – a family friend whose sometimes inexplicable behaviour left a lasting impression – Karen starting working at Find and was initially shocked by the things she was introduced to.
Shocked by What She Saw
A visit to a large care home in the north east particularly stands out:
“…every door was locked, a man was urinating in the entrance and a lady was washing her hands in front of a door. Residents were actually lined up to go to the toilet! One lady had delirium and the manager didn’t seem to have a clue. After the meeting, I sat and cried in the car and was on the verge of resigning, but the person I was with (our Research & Development Manager) simply said “nothing I had seen was acceptable or necessary and that the reason I had to do what I was doing was to change it all”. Once I had calmed down and thought about it, I realised she was right and wanted to make change happen as quickly as possible.”
When Karen first started at Find, their specialities were signage and memory boxes – as well as pioneering the famous red toilet seat! Since then they’ve grown their range to cover an enormous variety of products that are practical and usable in everyday life.
Academic Research Plus Practical Experience
Academic research, including training at Stirling University, is combined with a vast amount of practical experience in order to develop the very best possible items for people living with dementia.
“We have continued to lead the way in our field in no small part due to collaborating with so many knowledgeable contacts, including those living with dementia and their carers. We are also more than happy to challenge the academics if we believe our experiences outweigh their research and are currently pushing for research into several aspects of the environment, where our case studies have been so successful but official research is still not available.”
Products with the End User in Mind
As with many areas of healthcare, Find are appalled by the number of products on the market for people with dementia that have been designed without paying attention to the end user. Find’s products are always developed from exactly the opposite angle – ensuring everything they develop and manufacture is built on feedback and evidence from the people who are going to be using the products.
Karen herself is very keen on playing devil’s advocate when it comes to new product development – considering the potential negative aspects of everything in order to eliminate downsides. So while there are some competitor products available that might benefit a small number people, Karen always wants to make sure that the people who might be negatively affected are also taken into account – thus leading to solutions that benefit everyone, not just “some people”.
Sadly, there are several examples of bad products or practices where the people behind them should know better. Find’s whole ethos is based on working directly with clients to carry out case studies, so they don’t avoid some of the shocking mistakes they see made by others. As Karen says:
“Research is an excellent tool when developing new products, but I really believe that case studies are what ensure the product works – you cannot get better than feedback and evidence from people with dementia and those working in care.”
Examples of Bad Practice
Karen gave some examples of products and situations where the end user most definitely hasn’t been kept in mind during the development phase:
– Shiny, reflective surfaces on handrails and bars. Find only produce matt finishes as dementia-related products should always be non-reflective.
– White plates for eating. Find offer coloured plates as there are many people living with dementia who find it hard to see food unless it stands off the background colour.
– China cups for drinking tea. Often people working in a care home environment will try to help people with dementia to try and carry on acting as they did before, so will attempt to assist with eg drinking from china cups. This obviously shows there has been no thought for the lack of independence this type of assistance represents – so Find offer unbreakable coloured mugs that allow people to drink unaided.
Product Development and Manufacturing Principles
The overarching ethos behind Find’s product development is that they want products to:
- reduce slips, trips and falls
- reduce agitation and distressed behaviour
- reduce incontinence episodes
- increase exercise
- reduce depression
- improve levels of hydration and nutrition
Karen outlined the basis for their development and manufacturing process:
“We understand the environment so well, we can take all these issues into consideration when we make decisions. Our case studies support all these points and there is official academic research for each point too.”
It’s clear that Karen and the team at Find have a real passion and determination to make a positive difference in the lives of people living with dementia – something they’re dedicated to pursuing for as long as is necessary.
Find at the Alzheimer’s Show
Four of the key team members from Find will be at this year’s show on 8 – 9 June – including Karen, who will be giving a talk on the Friday. Karen explained the outline for her presentation:
“Using aids from signage, memory boxes and reminiscence through to murals, I will be explaining how to enhance the care environment and evidencing the benefits that the changes bring. The right environment reduces the risk of falls, agitation and incontinence. It can also increase hydration & nutrition levels, promote exercise and reduce the risk of developing depression.”
When you visit the Find stand, you’ll see a range of murals suitable for care home environments, plus matching furniture, signs and orientation aids, and a selection of items of dementia-friendly crockery.
They’ll also be demonstrating their new mobile interchangeable unit, which is suitable for use in all kinds of care settings and can be easily transformed from a drinks bar to a shop, to a café bar, to a hair salon etc.