How the hospice world is starting to reach out to dementia patients

Categories: Care.

Celebrity baddie Katie Hopkins didn’t do herself any favours with her outrageous slur describing sufferers as ‘bed blockers’, an offensive remark which doesn’t warrant further comment.

I’d prefer to focus on how the hospice world is starting to reach out to dementia patients, with some in the north west already making considerable headway.

For instance, East Cheshire Hospice has set up a partnership with a large care home provider whose clinical staff exchange roles with hospice personnel for two-week periods. Willow Wood in Tameside has appointed a dementia specialist nurse who will visit and assess people wherever they are most ‘at home’.

These positive examples are progressive moves which can perhaps help dispel myths and anxieties about the care environment and offer more support to people with dementia and their carers.

I read a report the other day which said that dementia is now “one of the biggest global public health challenges facing our generation which can no longer be put out into the long grass.”

That bold powerful statement illustrates the scale of this worrying health and social problem.

Hospices won’t shy away from the challenge and St Ann’s has a long history of looking after patients with a myriad of complex care needs, treating conditions such as cancer, cardiac, renal, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis.

At St Ann’s we’ve made some steps towards facing the dementia dilemma though to date some hospices have grasped the challenge more than us.

We’ve received guidance from a group of people with early dementia in Stockport (EDUCATE) about making our hospice facilities more dementia friendly, should resources become available to refurbish our sites. Even cosmetic changes like colour schemes and wall clocks would make a difference for patients.

Some of our staff have received online training, but we recognise it’s a long journey and overall there’s still a huge amount that can be done to educate healthcare professionals. We can learn from dementia specialists and I’m sure they can also benefit from our expertise.

There is a significant pressure for people supporting someone with dementia, yet we can help, particularly in the early stages with supportive outpatient services such as counselling and complementary therapies to deal with the inevitable anxieties.

We realise hospices aren’t the answer to everything but we can share learning to serve communities, while knowing full well that people and families have complex needs and don’t come as neat packages. End of life care standards should be the same for everyone but unfortunately there isn’t an unlimited pot of money to achieve that goal.

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