Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Society

New impetus for dementia strategy is welcome

While most of the political world is focused on Ed Miliband’s speech at the Labour Party conference today, the government has quietly made an announcement that should give renewed hope to people with dementia, their families and carers; a renewed focus for the National Dementia Strategy.

It seems a long time since the strategy was launched in February 2009 amid much fanfare and talk of how it would improve care for people with the condition. What followed that was, well, very little, it seemed. Indeed, the National Audit Office was heavily critical of the implementation of the strategy – or lack of it – back in January.

While some thought that criticism was premature – one year into a 5-year strategy – little progress seems to have been made since, hence the new government’s re-fresh of it.

The Department of Health document Quality outcomes for people with dementia: Building on the work of the National Dementia Strategy highlights 4 main priorities:

  • Good-quality early diagnosis and intervention for all
  • Improved quality of care in general hospitals
  • Living well with dementia in care homes
  • Reduced use of antipsychotic medication.

The DH adds that the improvement of community personal support services is integral to and underpins each of the 4 priorities.

I can’t argue against any of those priorities, but carers, care service professionals and campaigners have been saying this for years.

There is also talk of developing an ‘outcomes-focused approach’ to dementia. ‘Outcomes-focused’ is an increasingly used phrase in health and social care and is starting to grate – isn’t all health and social care geared to delivering an outcome? I.e. improving the life of the service user? Or is it meant to stand for ‘as opposed to target-driven approach of previous government’?

However, cynicism aside, this is a major and welcome commitment from the government. For too long dementia has not received the attention it deserves from successive governments and, as a growing number of people develop the condition, it becomes an ever more urgent priority.

This annoucement has also gone down well with organisations in the sector, with the Alzheimer’s Society, the English Community Care Association and Counsel and Care all coming out in support of this.

But we have all been here before and as the original dementia strategy shows, good words and plans are one thing, but it means nothing if it does not deliver results for service users and their families.

My worry with this is that this could happen all over again. There isn’t too much detail in the document on how this will be delivered, although this is in part because the delivery strategy will be linked into the wider reforms of the NHS and social care, which will be announced in the coming months.

So, there is much to commend the revisions to the dementia strategy, but, as ever, words and intentions are one thing, but the real indicator of success will be in the implementation of this and tangible results for service users. So I’ll reserve judgement on it until later when – or if – the results can be seen among service users.

Leave a comment

Filed under adult social care, dementia, health care, social care

More dementia information and support needed

It is a word that strikes terror into the hearts of many older people: dementia. So it seems surprising that there still seems to be a lack of good-quality information about the condition and how to deal with it, according to a new survey.

Data from YouGov, published to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week, reveals that in a poll of some 2,000 adults without dementia 31% would not know how to get information and support if they received a diagnosis.

At a scary time – YouGov reports that 74% of respondents would feel frightened after being told they have the condition – people need all the information and support they can get in order to get to grips with what the condition is and what it means.

Indeed, anecdotally I have heard about people receiving a dementia diagnosis but getting hardly any support from health services – the only information they found was self-researched on the internet. This may well be an isolated case – there are some very good services out there – but it illustrates the inconsistency of services across the UK.

Ruth Sutherland, acting chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, has called directly for things to change. “It is terrible that so many people would not how to get information and support following a diagnosis of dementia. We need better awareness and information so that a diagnosis of dementia is not such a frightening experience.”

Whether that information is through leaflets and factsheets given at diagnosis, better signposting to specialist support such as memory clinics by GPs, TV advertising campaigns about what dementia is or other means, more information could make a stressful time a little less hard to deal with.

Better information could also help to deal with some of the stigma that is still associated with the condition – 10% reported that they would feel ‘ashamed’ to have dementia – which can also hold people back from seeking support once they have been given a diagnosis.

Dementia is not a death sentence and does not stop people living active and full lives – including developing new interests – and this should be at the heart of information given to people, along with practical advice about living with the condition.

1 Comment

Filed under adult social care, dementia

Dementia care still falling short

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.

1 Comment

Filed under adult social care