Posted by at 19/08/2013 12:15:15
Dementia is one of the real challenges of our time. As more of us live longer, more people are developing dementia, and the numbers are set to carry on rising.
A progressive, degenerative illness, dementia affects not only people’s memories and thinking but also, as it progresses, their behaviour, balance, speech, and physical functions.
Further on in their illness, patients can be confused and unsettled by being in an unfamiliar setting, but unable to communicate with those around them, making them particularly vulnerable.
This is why it is so important for the NHS and social care to do everything we can to treat them in the place where they live – be it their own home or a care home – at the end of their lives.
There are around 2,500 people with a dementia diagnosis in West Kent and we estimate a further 3,000 people are undiagnosed.
Improving this is a priority for us at NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). To make diagnosis faster, we want the assessment to be carried out by the patient’s GP, supported by a specialist mental health nurse, rather at an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Early diagnosis enables: patients and their families to talk about what is happening and make vital plans for the future; treatment with medication, which helps some patients; and family carers – usually the husband or wife of the patient – to be supported from an early stage.
We and Kent County Council are investing this year in improved services for both dementia patients and their carers.
In west Kent, we have long had Admiral Nurses, experienced mental health nurses, who specialise in supporting carers of dementia patients.
There are now also dementia cafes once a month in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone and Sevenoaks for people with dementia and their carers, and peer support groups, where newly diagnosed patients can talk through their feelings and support each other.
Full details about these are available at www.dementiawebkentandmedway.org.uk or from the free Kent and Medway 24-hour dementia helpline, on 0800 500 3014, which also offers support with relationship problems, loneliness, isolation, stress and other issues.
To combat loneliness, the NHS and local authorities are working with local organisations and businesses across Kent and Medway to develop dementia friendly communities, where people with dementia will feel safe and well supported.
And the Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging people to sign up as Dementia Friends, so they can get more information and be a dementia champion – more information at www.dementiafriends.org.uk
If you would like to share your experience of dementia with me, you can email email@example.com or write to me, Dr Bob Bowes, at NHS West Kent CCG, Wharf House, Medway Wharf Road, Tonbridge, TN9 1RE.