Degrees and courses for international students
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Improving dementia care

This 50-hour non-accredited, self-directed online course is for registered and unregistered practitioners and carers with an interest in, or responsibility for, the care of people with dementia. The course encourages you to think critically about what it means to be person-centred, and reflect upon the challenges of providing quality care. Real accounts of practice from people affected by dementia, their family members and practitioners enrich this interactive course. Written assuming no prior knowledge, the online learning guides support you in building your understanding of dementia care through discussions of up-to-date research and theory, brought to life through interactive activities and audio-visual accounts from practice.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code
This is a non-credit bearing course.
Study method
Distance Learning
Short course cost
See Registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This 50-hour multimedia online course is focused on dementia care. In the course of your studies, you will develop an understanding of:

  • the medical and physiological dimensions of dementia including symptoms, changes in the brain, diagnosis and medication
  • the experience of dementia in relation to memory, identity and social relationships
  • a person-centred approach to meeting the needs of the person with dementia
  • the impact of the design of the physical environment
  • how organisational cultures shape the quality of care and
  • decision making, capacity, consent and risk.

The course aims to help practitioners and carers understand the principles and issues behind practice in order to reflect upon the ‘messy reality’ of dementia care. The course is aimed at a diverse, multi-professional audience comprising of both ‘support worker’ level practitioners (such as health care assistants or care workers), registered practitioners, carers and those with a general interest in the topic. Recognising the diverse roles and settings of students, the course will guide you through a process of reflection and action planning in relation to your particular context.

You will learn by working through online learning guides. Assuming no prior knowledge, you are supported to build your understanding of dementia care by working step-by-step through online activities, real accounts from practitioners, carers and people with dementia. The study of audio-visual material and written case studies from practice are a central feature of the course. You will also be directed to web resources to develop an understanding of relevant procedures or services. 

A Learning Advisor will also be available to you via a forum on the website, to answer questions and provide advice on the course learning resources and help you apply your learning to your workplace.

By the end of this course you should have developed knowledge and understanding of:

  • the medical and physiological dimensions of dementia in relation to symptoms, changes in the brain and medication
  • the personal experience of dementia in relation to memory, identity, social relationships
  • person-centred care of people with dementia and the role of the family
  • how the physical environment affects the person with dementia and how its design can improve their experience
  • decision making in partnership with people with dementia which supports autonomy
  • how organisational cultures shape the care of people with dementia.

At the end of this course you should have developed the skills to:

  • integrate different experiences of dementia and the associated caring practices with theoretical knowledge
  • critically reflect on and develop practice and care in order to meet the needs of people with dementia
  • develop the capacity to make decisions in partnership with people with dementia
  • respond appropriately to the needs of people with dementia
  • take responsibility for your own learning and/or continuing professional development.

This course will require around 50 hours of your time in total. The strong link between course learning and your work practice creates relevant, enduring and transferable outcomes – and the learning is far richer than more expensive one-to-three day workshops. Register online today and start tomorrow – no need to wait!

The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in supporting learning. You'll benefit from:

  • the convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials and activities whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the protected course website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline. Note taking templates are available and saved for you in the virtual learning environment.
  • receiving a Statement of Participation which includes your grade based upon a computer marked test. You can use this to demonstrate your continuing professional development (CPD) activity to your employer and/or professional body. (N.B. The course does not carry academic credits.)

Some of the pages within the module contain links to external sites. Accessing these sites is part of the allocated study time for the module. You may also wish to undertake additional background study or reading if some of the concepts introduced are completely unfamiliar to you.

Vocational relevance

The course focuses on person-centred practice and is highly relevant to staff working at all levels in health and social care (registered staff and non-registered support staff), those directly involved in frontline care and those who need to understand the sensitivities and challenges entailed in supporting people with dementia and supporting their families and carers. Participants will establish a strong link between what they learn and their work practice.

The way the course is delivered means it is accessible to people working in acute, community and domiciliary settings; staff have access to learning at any time that suits them (24/7) and can refer back to case studies, guidance and learning points at any time – even after they have completed study. This ensures that outcomes from study can be applied in practice long after the course has been completed. We are proud of the way the course creates relevant, enduring and transferable outcomes for health and social care service.

Professional recognition

Completion of the course enables us to recognise your work through an OU statement of participation that you can use to document your commitment to continuing professional development in your personal portfolio, or to provide evidence to employers or professional body.

Outside the UK

This course has been written primarily for a UK context with references to the UK context.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    There are no entry requirements. For each course you can register and begin at any time during the life of the course. You can study at your own pace. The course will be open to you for a time period of between 6 and 18 months depending on your course registration date and you will be advised of the specific time limitations upon enrolment.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.


    Start End England fee Register
    At anytime Flexible - see Entry requirements for more detail £185.00 Register

    Ways to pay

    Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

    Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

    The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2019/20 academic year. Fees for short courses starting in the 2020/21 academic year or later may increase in line with the University’s strategic approach to fees.

    What's included

    All learning materials are delivered entirely online. All study is self-directed. The course does not include tuition.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs. If you are a new learner with the OU, make sure that you look at our website.