As people live longer, the number of people with dementia is on the increase.
The Alzheimer’s Society predicts the number of people with dementia in the UK will double in the next 40 years. By 2051 there will be 1.7 million people with dementia.
Across Kent and Medway there are currently 9,000 people diagnosed with dementia, with 583 of these in the Ashford area. However, the NHS in Kent and Medway says that only 42.6 per cent of people with dementia in Ashford are diagnosed.
Steps are underway to encourage more people who may have the condition to seek diagnosis. This, and support services for people with dementia and their carers, are being promoted this week to mark national Dementia Awareness Week (19-25 May).
The first step for many people who think they or a loved one may have dementia is a trip to the GP. A new memory testing system is being piloted in some GP surgeries across Kent this year which will use an iPad app called CANTABmobile to determine whether patients have memory problems which may be linked to dementia.
All acute hospitals in Kent and Medway are now screening everyone aged 75 and above, who is admitted as an emergency and spends more than 72 hours in hospital, for any sign of memory problems.
GPs, practice nurses and other primary care providers are also being trained to look out for the early warning signs.
Dr Navin Kumta, Chair of NHS Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Dementia is on the increase and we want to make sure that more people with memory problems are diagnosed so that we can offer them the right support. Carers of people with memory problems can also benefit from the support so it’s important that they encourage their loved ones to visit a GP if they’re concerned.”
The support available includes the Kent and Medway Dementia Web. The website provides information and details of support services which are searchable by area. Details of dementia cafes, peer support and mentors can all be found on the site - see www.dementiawebkentandmedway.org.uk
A free 24 hour helpline for people with dementia and their carers also offers advice and emotional support – call 0800 500 3014.
Clinical commissioning groups across Kent and Medway are working on a number of further initiatives to support people with dementia, many of them supported by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge funding. NHS organisations in Kent and Medway received £1.2 million from the challenge fund to support work on dementia, and west Kent received a further £300,000. Other health trusts and councils in Kent and Medway have also invested in services.
The NHS in Kent and Medway works in partnership with Kent County Council, local councils, charities and voluntary organisations to support people with dementia and their carers.
Home Treatment Services are available across east Kent, provided by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust. They provide enhanced support and treatment for people with dementia and their carers in response to crises and during periods of transition to prevent unnecessary admission to hospital and to provide support to carers. The teams include mental health nurses, occupational therapists and psychology and support workers.
Support is also available to care homes. Twelve care homes across Kent and Medway have been selected to participate in a training programme to enable them to provide an even better service for people with dementia. The Excellence in Kent scheme will give the 12 care homes access to intensive training and will involve careful assessment of people with dementia with a system called dementia mapping which aims to see life through the eyes of someone with dementia.
Hospitals are also improving care for people living with dementia. Each acute hospital in Kent and Medway has a specialist dementia nurse. The hospitals are also recruiting dementia champions from their staff to raise awareness of the needs of people with dementia. A buddy scheme has been established in Darent Valley Hospital and similar schemes are being implemented in all other acute hospitals across Kent and Medway. The scheme is delivered by volunteers who provide support to people with dementia and their carers to make their stay a better experience.
Changes are also being made to the environment in hospitals, to make them more dementia friendly. These changes include a memory room in Medway Maritime Hospital.
In addition, Kent County Council is working with a number of partners to create dementia friendly communities. Work includes the development of more dementia cafes, facilitation of intergenerational work which brings people with dementia together with young people, and also an adult placement scheme called Shared Lives which is similar to fostering but is for adults rather than children.
Dr Kumta said: “It’s important to note that getting forgetful is a natural part of the ageing process, but there are some tell-tale signs that mean it may be time to visit your GP and express your concerns.”
These signs include memory loss, especially problems with short-term memory, increasing difficulties with tasks and activities requiring concentration, depression, changes in personality and mood, periods of mental confusion and difficulty finding the right words.
Case study - Ashford – Help needed from local people to review dementia services
NHS Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is in the process of reviewing dementia services – and is asking local people for their input.
Following recent changes in the NHS, the CCG is now responsible for NHS services in the Ashford area, and dementia services are one of its top priorities.
To support its review, the CCG is holding an event on Wednesday 29 May to hear from people who live or work in the Ashford area who have experiences of, or an interest in local dementia services.
The clinical lead for Long Term Conditions for NHS Ashford CCG, Dr Caroline Ruaux, said: “Dementia will affect more than 1,400 people in the Ashford district alone within the next five years.
“This means that there are many people in the Ashford area whose lives will be influenced directly – or indirectly – by dementia. It is important that they and their carers receive the right support to enable them to maintain their independence for as long as possible and to have a good quality of life.”
Dr Ruaux added: “Families and carers and those affected by dementia can provide us with valuable insight. We are particularly keen to hear the personal experiences that people have had of dementia services – what works and what doesn’t work quite so well.
“We’d also like to hear what people think will make the biggest positive difference to those affected by dementia and their families.”
Everyone is welcome at the event, but places are limited, and will be given on a first come, first served basis.
If you would like to get involved, please book now by contacting Jemma Fisk on 01233 618341 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone not able to attend, but who would still like to be involved should send their comments and feedback by post to Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group, Inca House, Trinity Road, Eureka Science Business Park, Ashford, TN25 4AB.