NARPO – The voice of retired police officers
NARPO – The voice of retired police officers
Wellbeing after the Police can cover some amazing and uplifting topics around health and fitness, but at NARPO we also have to embrace some of the problems facing our members in later life. We are determined to be at the forefront of thinking on key issues and believe that developing a clear understanding of dementia and its impact on those around the sufferer is critical to our belief in a collaborative community of NARPO members.
We knew that our close partner Police Mutual had delivered a respite service to serving police officers and staff for over five years and we believed that doing something similar for retired officers was long overdue.  So, together we embarked on researching the needs of the retired community and thinking about ways we could put together a programme.
Claire Long, the Head of Police Service Engagement at Police Mutual, said: “It wasn’t going to be easy; we knew that the needs of the retired community were going to be more complex but just because something is more difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.”
“We spent a significant amount of time with the team at NARPO, discussing how we could do more to support the wellbeing of retired officers.  Whilst there was no way we could help everyone we did feel that with the right support and training we could deliver something meaningful.”
From these conversations the idea of developing and trialling a respite programme for retirees (and their families) who are living with dementia was born.
Dementia can be a cruel disease, not only having a debilitating impact on the person who lives with it but putting an almost unbearable strain on those that care for them.  The condition can present numerous challenges and lead to families becoming very isolated, having limited contact with the outside world.
We identified a range of providers who specialise in short break interventions including MindforYou, Revistalise and Dementia Adventure, and meeting with them gave us the confidence that we really could make this work.
The breaks are typically between five and seven days long and there is a great choice of locations around the UK.  Each holiday has a really interesting itinerary which gets people out and about enjoying a range of excursions to suit all tastes.
There is a significant body of evidence that shows how a short respite break can have a real benefit for all concerned, reducing carer strain and improving the mood and confidence of the individual with dementia.
By collaborating with experts, we knew from the start that we would be able to alleviate any concerns and provide the right support every step of the way.
We also wanted to work with the providers to examine the hard evidence which showed that by investing in this programme we were really going to make a difference to the lives of those involved.
The short break interventions provided by MindforYou offer respite without separation and for some of our families this kind of break was exactly what they were looking for. Evidence collected highlights that all guests who have experienced a short break would use this service again. This is further substantiated by the figures for repeat bookings, with over 50% of all guests in the first 18 months of business having been on three or more holidays!
The impact of dementia on the caregiver is most frequently termed “caregiver burden or strain” and describes the physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial problems they are experiencing due to their caring role. An initial pilot assessment of carer strain from MindforYou, in collaboration with Loughborough University, has shown a trend towards a reduction in carer strain after going on a respite break.  Interestingly, a week or so after returning from a break, one of the benefits shown was an improvement in sleep pattern. So, there is real evidence that these kind of breaks can make a difference not just to the person who has dementia but also to their carer.
The personalised feedback given by guests at the end of their holiday has highlighted further benefits,   including better social opportunities, enabling participation in activities, relieving household responsibilities and providing fun and enjoyment.
These benefits have resulted in anecdotal evidence that the person living with dementia increases their self-confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to participate and enjoy more activities when they return home, such as a going out more regularly, being willing to take part in activities by themselves or going on a family holiday.
Helen Blackshaw the Police Mutual Wellbeing Services Manager said: “In total we offered 22 respite breaks, using a range of providers.  We learnt a lot about what does and doesn’t work.  We didn’t always get it right but then we would try something else so that all of the families we worked with really did get some benefit.”
“Emotionally this programme has been very tough.  The team here have all undergone training so that we could be confident that we were getting it right and had a good understanding of dementia.”
In terms of the learning:
It is great news that we are going to continue providing respite breaks for families who are living with dementia.  In 2017 we hope to help another 40 families.
Here are what some of our families thought…
“I am so overcome with such kindness along with your understanding.”
“Thank you again to the Police Mutual Foundation for making it possible for me to go with Muriel and have a relaxing break. I feel this is an extremely worthwhile project.”If you would like to find out more about the Police Mutual/NARPO respite services for members and their families living with dementia, please contact Helen on 01543 305351 / 01543 305266
Visit the Police Mutual Wellbeing pages.