Dementia makes the headlines again today, with news that half of all patients with dementia leave hospital in a worse state than they arrive in.
The Alzheimer’s Society says patients with dementia stay longer in hospital than those without the condition and a third have to move into a care home afterwards because they can no longer care for themselves, such has been their deterioration.
It is easy to see why people with dementia decline in hospitals – they can be noisy, disorientating and distressing places and someone with dementia is less able to cope with this than someone without.
And with 80% of nurses admitting in the Alzheimer’s Society’s survey to receiving no or not enough training in dementia, it is easy for the quality of care to vary and, in some cases, patients to not receive appropriate care for their condition – help eating and drinking, for example.
But there are already measures in place to address this; the Dementia Strategy, published in February, had an objective to ensure all health and social care staff who may be involved in caring for people with dementia have training in caring for people with the condition. This would be through basic training and continuous professional and vocational development.
This research highlights how urgently this training needs to be rolled out. With the numbers of people with dementia growing as the population ages, it shouldn’t be delayed.
But (as ever in social and health care, there is a but) it will come down to finances. Training is usually one of the first things to be shelved when cuts need to be made and with budgets already being tightened – and bigger cuts to come in 2010 and 2011 – this could well get quietly put to one side.
If it does, then little will change for people with dementia, and they will continue to cost the NHS millions by staying in hospital for longer and continue to deteriorate more rapidly than they could do. The training needs to happen.