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Posted on Mar 10 2022 by Fiona Bailey

A Lead Social Worker who recently retired from dementia services has spoken about the challenges she faces within the “humbling” role.

Terry Henson, who was based at the Northampton site of St Andrew’s Healthcare, had worked in the field of mental health for 25 years.

She began her career working in community, but then started working with older people living with dementia, alongside other diagnoses such as psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety or depression disorders.

Speaking in her Service Spotlight video, Terry said: “I think the role that social workers have is important as we empower people who actually don't have a voice to speak up as best as they can. I think that gives me quite a lot of satisfaction to see somebody coming in very, very poorly and actually leaving still poorly, but not enough that they still need to be in hospital.”

Terry also explained the key interventions that she applied when working with her dementia patients.

She said: “Our nursing teams will work directly with the patient, but most of the work that we do is more with other people. We link with outside agencies such as social services or care providers.

“We work a lot with families too, supporting them because it's very distressing to live with somebody who has dementia. For example you might meet a couple who have been married for 50 or 60 years and the husband develops dementia and can’t live at home anymore so he goes into a care home locally. But because of his challenging behaviour he might end up in a hospital. The wife will obviously want to visit him, so my role is supporting and reassuring her.

 Terry was also on hand to support members of the family when it comes to end of life care.

She said: “Some patients that come to us, sadly are not able to leave hospital and they die here. So from a social perspective, we work with the family members to ensure that they can visit, that they can come in and be very supported.

“Not so long ago, I worked with a family member during COVID, so it meant visiting their relative was really difficult. But, we managed to find a way for him to come in, in the evening and we separated out a part of the ward so that he could actually spend a little bit of time with his mum while she was still alive.

 “In social, we have the flexibility that we can come in and do those specific pieces of work with people. The family member was so grateful for that because he was able to say goodbye when, as we know through the COVID situation, so many people weren't able to do that, it was very humbling and a very special thing to be able to do for him.”

 To watch Terry’s Service Spotlight, click here.