The NHS is investing in helping dementia patients remain as independent as possible.
NHS Kent and Medway is improving and expanding community services for dementia patients, including the launch of a new round-the-clock crisis service.
The NHS has also introduced initiatives to help dementia patients in hospital and £3.5 million is being invested in improving mental health hospital facilities by April 2014.
There are 648,895 people with dementia in England, of which 22,000 are in Kent and Medway. Two thirds of people with dementia are women. One in three people aged over 65 will develop dementia but younger people can get it too.
Evelyn White, Associate Director Integrated Commissioning, NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Alzheimer’s is a physical disease caused by changes in the brain’s structure and accounts for two thirds of dementia cases.
“The number of people in the UK with dementia will double in the next 40 years, so it is important that dementia patients and carers can get the support they need to improve their quality of life.
“This is why we are investing in community based services such as extending the Home Treatment Service, which provides specialist support for people with dementia and their carers for up to three months, and the dementia crisis service.
“We are in the process of bidding for the South of England Dementia Challenge Fund to support a number of projects. We have also invested in dementia cafes, peer support groups and Dementia Web – an online resource for patients, families and carers.”
Evelyn added: “People with dementia can find it difficult to think clearly, remember things, communicate or perform tasks easily, such as cooking or getting dressed. If you think you may have dementia, visit your GP who will listen to your concerns and may carry out a number of tests to exclude other illnesses. Don’t put off going, as diagnosis is important so you can get the right treatment.”
NHS Kent and Medway
NHS Kent and Medway is in the process of submitting bids to the South of England Dementia Challenge Fund with the aim of supporting a number of projects across Kent and Medway. These are:
- Improving early diagnosis
- Improving the patient experience in hospitals
- Improving care in care homes
- Dementia-friendly communities – working with 12 local communities to raise awareness and help people with dementia feel safe and well supported locally
- Live and Learn – an intergenerational project to raise awareness of dementia among young people and to offer voluntary work opportunities to use their skills to help people with dementia.
Dozens of care home managers are taking part in training and development programmes to enhance their skills in dementia care. Extra investment is being made in helping care homes support people with dementia at end of life so, if they wish and it is medically appropriate, they can stay in their familiar surroundings and avoid the distress of an admission to hospital.
NHS Kent and Medway has jointly invested with Kent County Council in dementia cafés across Kent where people with dementia and their carers can go to meet up and share their experiences in a relaxed, comfortable setting. There are also peer support groups, where people who have recently been diagnosed can talk to others in the same situation. There are similar arrangements in Medway, jointly supported by Medway Council.
Community based support
Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust offers a six-session course called “Memories and More” for dementia patients and their families run by Admiral Nurses, in partnership with Age UK.
The course covers relaxation, technology and reminiscence. Families make a lifestory book, which charts the patient’s life, including memorable moments and likes and dislikes. It also helps families adapt their carer skills, reduce potential conflict and improve communication.
Medway Community Healthcare runs a support service which helps people with dementia and their families manage symptoms and cope with the challenges of dementia when things are particularly difficult.
The team of dementia nurses visit patients and families at home to give a range of support and advice, including coping with communication difficulties and challenging behaviour.
The service supports people in the process of being diagnosed, diagnosed patients and families or carers in difficulty.
Darent Valley Hospital has a range of initiatives that focus on dementia care, such as new training in cognitive impairment. The hospital’s Dignity Champions highlight dignity and respect and focus on dementia care.
There’s a nursing leadership strategy to improve dignity and nutrition and an elderly care nurse specialist has been appointed for dementia patients.
Windows are left clear so dementia patients can enjoy the view. Patients needing help with eating and drinking are given red meal trays and beaker lids so nurses can easily identify who needs assistance. A new sensory garden is being planned to give dementia patients a peaceful break from wards, funded by Gravesend Soroptomists Society.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services has been commissioned to provide a dementia buddy scheme, piloted on Ebony ward. The scheme will have a coordinator to manage a group of volunteers to spend time with dementia patients and provide activities.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has initiatives to improve the care and comfort of dementia patients.
These include a lunch club, which encourages patients to eat. Small groups of patients eat together around a table where they can talk and listen to music. Patients on wards who need help eating and drinking are given red trays so staff can see who needs help.
At Tunbridge Wells Hospital, a ‘buddy’ system is being piloted to give patients company and to prevent isolation.
An iPod is being used by volunteers to play music to patients to help them relax and stimulate memories. Photographs are also used to encourage conversation.
Staff are trained in dementia care and awareness and have access to dementia information, case studies and resources, including the Alzheimer’s Society’s "This is Me" booklet and "Making Sense" DVDs.
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has ward champions on every ward, who raise awareness of dementia and staff promote the Alzheimer’s Society’s “This Is Me” folder, which holds personal information about the patient to stimulate and encourage communication.
The hospital is piloting a range of initiatives on three wards. It is in the process of personalising bed spaces, introducing large clocks with white boards to help with orientation, coloured bays to help patients find their bed areas and writing messages for patients on the back of blank cards for reassurance.
The wards also complete two-hourly rounds looking specifically at nutrition and pain.
Staff receive ongoing training on how to care for patients who are confused or agitated.
To help people find out about symptoms and local services, Kent and Medway has a dedicated dementia website, please visit http://www.dementiawebkentandmedway.org.uk/
If you need to talk to someone about dementia, whether you have been diagnosed or care for someone with dementia, please call the 24-hour free and confidential helpline on 0800 500 3014. The helpline offers information and support for a range of issues, such as bereavement, relationship problems, loneliness, isolation and stress.
17 September 2012