Recognising these challenges, a new and innovative project was started in 2014 to integrate the knowledge and skills of two specialist services within Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, UK – Hospice of the Valleys (a provider of Specialist Palliative Care) and the Alzheimer’s Society.
The aim of the project was to work in partnership to improve and develop effective palliative care for people with dementia and their families by working with existing health and social care professionals in order to overcome the challenges, and provide education for health professionals on the need for palliative care for people with dementia.
Between January 2014 and January 2015, 63 patients and their families were supported by the Challenge Project, 54% in residential and nursing care, 43% in their own home and 3% in an inpatient specialist mental health setting. Of patients who have died during that period less than 10% ended up dying in hospital with the remainder dying in their existing place of care.
The project is also being used as the basis of a research study evaluation supported by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre, Cardiff (MCPCRC). The Board of Trustees of Hospice of the Valleys has now extended this pilot project and the research evaluation will help guide its development in the future.
Mary E Schulz, Alzheimer Society of Canada, said: “It is crucial that health-care providers work together with individuals living with dementia and those who support them to provide the medical, emotional and spiritual support needed. A person-centred approach to palliative and end of life care combines good physical care with compassionate communication and support to minimise the person’s emotional and spiritual distress, while maximising their overall comfort and well-being.”
This article was first published as a case study in the report: Hidden Lives, Hidden Patients, commissioned for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2015. The report can be found on the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance website and will be officially launched on 10 October 2015 as part of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day celebrations. To find out more or to register an event for the Day, please visit the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day webpage.