Back at the start of 2013 I published a blog detailing My Dementia Wish List for the year. Ten months later seems an appropriate time to revisit some of these goals and, looking forward to the G8 Dementia Summit in London in December, explore some of the key issues in the world of dementia right now.
How do we improve care for people with dementia?
By providing care that is person-centred, dignified, respectful, understanding and compassionate. By offering people with dementia the chance to achieve, promoting their independence, ensuring that we always involve the person and seeing their abilities before their disabilities.
How do we support family carers more?
Listen to carers and find out what they need as individuals. Don’t employ a one-size-fits-all model. Ensure all support is family and relationship centred, and recognise family carers as a vital part of the ‘CareForce’.
Do we need more specialised training?
It is vital that we offer high-quality, specialised dementia training to both professionals and family carers alike to engender a new breed of ‘CareForce’. With the right training we can empower the people on the frontline of care – in homes, care homes and hospitals – with the skills and understanding that they need to support people with dementia.
Is early diagnosis the key for families facing dementia?
Timely diagnosis (diagnosis that is at the right time for the individual and their family), with good support mechanisms in place to ensure that the person with dementia and their family can ‘Live well with dementia’ is the ideal.
How do we ensure people ‘Live well with dementia’?
By putting the person with dementia and their family at the heart of joined up health and social care. Supporting, caring, loving and living with dementia as a team effort within a dementia friendly community.
How can we learn from best practice in the UK and worldwide?
Research good practice, collate that and share it. Be bold enough to highlight what we do well, and equally speak up when care is not what it should be.
How do we improve end-of-life care for people with dementia?
By looking at what individuals want. Encouraging as much forward planning as possible, and having the care and support in place to ensure that those wishes are met with the utmost dignity and respect.
COMMUNITY AND SOCIETY
How do we make our communities more dementia friendly?
By investing in educational, awareness raising initiatives amongst all age groups, crucially promoting the point that dementia friendly communities are good for everyone. We must build on Dementia Friends and some of the great local projects that are proving very successful and share their best practice. It is also vital to ensure that commitments to being dementia friendly are met by every locality to avoid a postcode lottery.
Can stigma be defeated?
I believe it can. So many other highly stigmatised diseases and conditions have managed to emerge from the shadows. Dementia can be the next one.
How to we increase awareness?
Talk about dementia. Listen to personal experiences. Provide platforms to share. Be open and honest. If everyone touched by dementia made a commitment to speak about it to someone with no knowledge, awareness would transformed.
How do we improve treatments?
Through increased research, more documented evidence of what is working in practice and the sharing of good practice, innovation and intelligence. Ultimately, however, a good treatment for any individual is about finding what actually works for them, not what is supposed to work for them.
What options are there aside from drugs?
Examples of therapeutic non-drug treatments that have been shown to alleviate dementia symptoms include music, art, dance, reminiscence, aromatherapy, massage, exercise, yoga, light therapy, cooking, gardening, sensory therapy, sculpture, animal therapy, poetry etc. The list is endless, but it’s about finding what is right for each individual.
How do we prevent dementia?
With over 100 different forms of dementia, not enough is yet known about each form and how to prevent it. On a general level, following all the well-known advice about healthy diet and lifestyle, regular exercise, and ensuring that you have enough sleep can only be a positive step in trying to prevent a host of illnesses and diseases, including dementia.
Will we ever have a cure for dementia?
Science is advancing. One day maybe we will!
Can we cope with the predicted levels of dementia in the future?
Many of our health and social care systems are already overstretched. Far more capacity needs to be built into these systems in order to fully support people with dementia now and in the future. We will also need to look towards innovation and flexible care models to ensure that we can meet demand for services and expectations of what services should be providing.
Is technology the answer to improving care?
Technology is an increasingly important factor, and for people with young-onset dementia it has a particular interest as individuals in this age bracket are often leading very technology-rich lives at the point that they are diagnosed. Technology undoubtedly has its place, but it must never be seen as a replacement for human contact and interaction.
What can the G8 Dementia Summit produce?
Hopefully a really positive consensus on the way forward for research and care for people with dementia worldwide. It will provide an unprecedented platform on which to discuss the major issues facing professionals and families, and provide a much need focus on a disease that poses one of the greatest challenges to relationships, medicine and care that the world has ever seen.