A while back, we were delighted to be approached by the Innovation Team at Alzheimer’s Society to take part in a completely new concept aimed to lift the lid on sex, intimacy and relationships. And we’re so glad we said yes as it has completely changed how we think.

What is it all about?

As its name suggests, ‘Lift the Lid’ aims to break taboo, with the needs and rights to sex, intimacy and relationships too often overlooked in the lives of people living in care homes. To do this, Alzheimer’s Society created a pioneering workshop in a box for care teams to use to get talking about the topic – and to encourage them to do something about it. At Cumnor Hill House, we did.

Where did the idea come from?

The innovation was jointly designed with input from a wide range of stakeholders, then prototyped and product-tested by care home teams across the sector, including us. We worked alongside Alzheimer’s Society, the National Dementia Care Awards 2018, Good Innovation, Bupa, Shinfield View and other care providers and research groups to trial this significant change in dementia care.

What does it involve?

Well, sex and intimacy in care homes is often seen as behaviour to be managed, rather than a human need with rights to be respected and supported. ‘Lift the Lid’ looks at how care home staff can become better-equipped and better supported in this area, enabling them to offer better support to residents and their partners when it comes to their relationship needs.

‘Lift the Lid’ involves audience-led innovative sprints that gather knowledge, actionable insights and creative solutions that are prototyped, adapted and widely adopted. The shared outcomes and process can then be used to help us to meet the needs of people affected by dementia.

The workshop for ‘Lift the Lid’ has been built on an innovation model to help improve dementia care, following a Learn, Investigate, Find and Experiment model, known as LIFE.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s workshop in a box includes all the tools needed for care homes to run their own creative workshop, which is exactly what we did at Cumnor Hill House. Its aim is to encourage staff to challenge perceptions around sex, intimate relationships and people affected by dementia, and to provide a framework for respectful management of in-the-moment situations. It also helps to align a shared set of values and actions for each care home involved.

‘Lift the Lid’ in our home

Louise Axtell, Home Manager here at Cumnor Hill House, said: ‘We’re proud to have been chosen as one of just a handful of care homes in the country to trial this innovative approach, and it was great to be part of such a pioneering project. It’s all about dignified care, and an understanding of intimacy and relationships are now an integral part of our care; the team here now has the understanding, ability and confidence to respond in an appropriate, respectful manner, not reacting out of embarrassment and fear.

Romance, sex and intimacy aren’t out of bounds in our home, as people may think they are. Your husband is still your husband, your wife is still your wife, and just because they’ve moved into our home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have that same intimate relationship you always have done. Lift the Lid has opened our eyes and for that, we’re grateful.’

Please feel free to speak to a member of the team to find out more about 'Lift the Lid'.