Helping an ageing population to tackle dementia
3, Jul, 2009
TRYPHAENA Doyle is the programme manager for older people’s mental health services for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust.
Here she talks aboutwhat the PCT is doing to help people living with the disease:
“Improving services for people with dementia and their carers is an absolute ‘must do’ for NHS Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
“It is not an illness we can ignore. It is estimated that there are 8,000 people living with dementia in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“Dementia is primarily a disease of old age–most people with dementia are over 80. An ageing population means we can expect the numbers of people with dementia to double in the next 15 years.
“In short, we must act now if we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Younger people with dementia are also affected and people with learning disabilities are a group at particular risk of developing the disease.
“Many people with dementia will be supported by unpaid friends and family ‘carers’, and those caring for a partner are more likely to be old and frail themselves.
“The earlier people seek help, the more that can be done. However, sadly, most people never receive a diagnosis, or only do when they have reached a crisis point. Many people still dismiss the early signs of dementia, such as memory loss, as a natural consequence of old age.
“Just like cancer in the past, misunderstanding and stigma prevents people talking about dementia openly. Social prejudices towards the old, those with a disability or a mental health problem, means it is still acceptable to collectively group people with dementia as ‘victims’ or ‘sufferers’ or worse still ‘demented’.
“Imagine the uproar if we labelled people with cancer as ‘cancerous’? Stigma costs lives, standing in the way of people getting the help they need.
Indeed, we know from looking at GP registers of people with dementia that most sufferers have never been formally diagnosed.
“There were just 2,645 cases in August 2008 on these registers, just 33% of anticipated prevalence. This is why the NHS and council have set an ambition to increase the numbers on the registers to at least 51% by 2011 and to open 18
new Memory Clinics in major towns across Cornwall, making it easier than ever before to get an early diagnosis of dementia.
“We are already seeing significant increases in the numbers of people getting a
diagnosis. Registers now show 38% of people with expected dementia have a diagnosis.
“The rise follows a “Worried About Your Memory?!” awareness raising campaign in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, which used a 1950s memory bus as a mobile Memory Clinic.
“A new team of dementia nurses has also been visiting care homes in Bodmin,
Penzance and North Cornwall, where it is estimated that a third of people have an undiagnosed dementia.
“A countywide expansion of the service is planned for the end of the year. GPs are also taking proactive steps to find people with dementia early.
“In Newquay, patients receiving flu jabs were offered the chance to speak to a doctor if they were worried about their memory. If memory problems are diagnosed, patients are automatically linked to a new type of memory nurse
who will provide continuous support for both the person with dementia and their carer from diagnosis onwards.
“The health services are also linking with social care services to provide a seamless experience for the person with dementia and their carers. The Newquay model has been extremely successful; we saw a sharp rise in people being diagnosed with dementia registers, rising from 36% to 51% in just six months.
“The Department of Health was also so impressed with results that it selected
Newquay Dementia Services as one of just 16 national integrated care pilots.
“The lessons from these pilots will be used to define the way services are delivered nationally in the future. The team has also made it to the
national Health and Social Care Awards finals. We plan to roll out the ‘Newquay Model’ to the rest of Cornwall over the next 18 months.
“Despite this progress, we cannot afford to be complacent. We know there is still a long way to go before we achieve the world-class dementia services
the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly deserve. We also want to hear from patients and the public about their experiences and what they want to
see from health and social care services.”
You can make contact by visiting the website or calling 01209 88 8213.