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How admiral nurses provide life-changing support for families affected by dementia

How admiral nurses provide life-changing support for families affected by dementia

There are plans to recruit 500 admiral nurses by 2025, says Caroline Scates, deputy director for admiral nurse development, Dementia UK

The current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Thérèse Coffey announced her ‘ABCD’ plan for patients, which focuses on Ambulances, Backlogs, Care, Doctors and Dentists. Here at Dementia UK, we would also welcome ‘D’ to reflect the estimated 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK and approximately 700,000 family and friends acting as primary unpaid carers, trying to manage the significant gaps in our health and social care system to access the support they need.

Existing pressures within the health and social care system mean families affected by dementia currently face challenges in accessing support at all stages of the condition – from delays trying to get a diagnosis to finding specialist residential care. When you add in the ongoing impact of Covid and the cost of living crisis, it is apparent how desperate the situation is becoming for many, and that dementia care urgently needs to be addressed.

Someone develops dementia every three seconds. The number of people living with dementia in the UK is set to rise to 1.1m by 2030 and with dementia currently recognised as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, there is no time to lose in improving access to support.

At Dementia UK our specialist admiral nurses provide life changing support for families affected by all forms of dementia. We currently have 392 admiral nurses in the UK, and our aim is to recruit 500 by 2025.

Our nurses are skilled, dedicated and passionate, but they cannot address the full range of issues facing those affected by dementia on their own. The current health and social care system often limits the impact their work has.

A thorough structure and plan for dementia care is needed to support those affected by the condition and those working in dementia care.

Our vision is for all families affected by dementia to have access to the specialist and compassionate dementia care and support that they need. And this will take significant structural, inclusion and perception changes to achieve.

Structure

Most importantly, the structure of how dementia care is currently provided and delivered in the UK needs review and funding. We need an effective, responsive and fully funded dementia care system in place to support families.

From pre-diagnosis through to end-of-life care, we see many families trying to navigate an un-coordinated system with shortages across the whole health and social care workforce resulting in gaps in care. A clearly defined dementia care pathway will help both families and healthcare professionals access timely resources and specialist support to improve outcomes for people living with dementia and those close to them.

Inclusion

Dementia care also needs to be fully inclusive. Regardless of location, background or specific diagnosis, everyone should have the opportunity to access excellent person-centred support, so that dementia is recognised as only a diagnosis and that there is so much more to a person to improve quality of life.

We are working hard to improve this, partnering with organisations such as the Chinese Welfare Trust to launch dedicated services and publishing resources in a range of languages to ensure dementia care is available to people from all backgrounds and cultures, but we also need policy-led change on this.

Perception

How dementia is perceived and understood is crucial to enable change to happen. Too often we hear about how a diagnosis of dementia tests relationships with friends, family and also health and social care professionals when a lack of understanding affects quality of life and everyday interactions. There needs to be improved public awareness to destigmatise dementia and reshape our understanding of dementia and how we adapt as a society to living with the condition.

Achieving real change

We want to see dementia care better prioritised at both national and local levels. We are committed to working collaboratively to achieve our vision for dementia care that works for both families affected by dementia and health and social care professionals.

The UK currently faces substantial challenges in sustaining a health and social care workforce that meets the needs of those living with dementia and their families. We know that an estimated 1.1 million people in the UK will be living with dementia by 2030, and this is predicted to rise to 1.4 million by 2040, stretching the current workforce further. To meet this growing need, it’s vital that there are opportunities and incentives to attract staff into dementia care. At Dementia UK, professional and practice development is highly valued, and our successful programme offers clinical supervision alongside a huge development opportunity for every admiral nurse, enabling us to retain staff and make them feel valued.

Wider uncertainties within the political, health and social care landscape are impacting families living with dementia every day, and it has never been more pressing that action is taken to improve the experiences and outcomes for these people. In May, a previous Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced a 10-year plan for dementia in England that has yet to be published. If the ‘ABCD’ approach is to truly deliver on the “issues that affect patients most”, then the Government must hold true to their May promise and publish an integrated, funded and holistic dementia plan at the earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, Dementia UK will continue to play our part, providing the support and opportunities within the workforce for nurses who wish to join us in our vision for specialist and compassionate dementia care.

For more information on dementia care, how to become an admiral nurse or to join Dementia UK’s campaigns network, visit www.dementiauk.org. If you need advice or support on living with dementia contact Dementia UK’s admiral nurse dementia helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email helpline@dementiauk.org.

 

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