Opinion

Our approach to dementia care must change

Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK  

The last few years of Covid-19 have pushed dementia care to a crisis point with record staff shortages across the care sector, care facilities on the brink of collapse, and with people with dementia and their families facing increased distress due to inadequate support.

One of the key examples of how Government neglects the needs of the care sector, and therefore the people who are dependent on their support, was the failure to supply care homes with adequate PPE and the movement of people from hospital who had Covid into care homes. The end result: vulnerable people in care homes, of which a large proportion have dementia, were put at great risk, with a resulting huge loss of life.

However, we cannot discuss the breakdown in the care system without acknowledging where it begins. For many years the ongoing lack of community support for families with dementia has had knock on effects for care homes and providers across the country. During Covid-19, already stretched local community services that enabled people with dementia to be cared for at home were either much reduced, closed or decommissioned. This caused a sharp rise in avoidable hospital and care home admissions, placing greater pressure on services that were already on the verge of collapse.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we witnessed all the warning signs of a broken care system; dementia care has always suffered from chronic underfunding. This has left staff without the training, development, and wider investment in equipment and resources to allow them to do their jobs effectively and safely, once again putting the care of those with dementia at risk.

Some of the major challenges around caring for people with dementia is the complexity of the condition and the lack of education around it. There is no one size fits all approach to care; this is why person- centred care, which respects an individual’s life experiences and opens up conversations around their needs for support, is so essential.

Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK with around 900,000 people in the UK currently diagnosed with it, yet the benefits of person-centred care, allowing people to be supported throughout the condition, are not being articulated and embedded effectively in professional education and workforce planning.

Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses (specialist dementia nurses)– who are developed and continually supported by the charity – can support health and social care workers to achieve better health outcomes by providing advice and guidance around care plans and needs assessments – they are firm proponents of person-centred care.

According to a recent Dementia UK survey for health and social care professionals, 90% claimed the Admiral Nurse service had increased their understanding of dementia and its effects, whilst 89% found it increased their confidence in assessing need for people with dementia and their families.

Moreover, the Government needs to do more to integrate the social and healthcare systems. In a society ageing with dementia, a long term, sustainable funding solution to the social care crisis, in addition to more provision of dementia specialist support is critical to relieve the pressures on a fractured care system. If we don’t achieve this, we will fail to treat people with dementia with the dignity they deserve.

For professionals seeking advice and support whilst caring for someone with dementia, contact Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email helpline@dementiauk.org

 

 

Edel Harris

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