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The dementia challenge
There are around 850,000 people in the UK who currently live with dementia. With an ageing population, more and more older people will need the support of domiciliary and care home staff in the future. So how can we prepare?
People with dementia need the support of staff with both the knowledge and skills to enable them to live well. SCIE’s dementia training for community-based staff focuses on the importance of the person-centred approach, the impact that different types of dementia can have on a person and how to put dignity and understanding at the centre of care.
It’s important to point out that non-clinical staff with domestic and portering duties are part of the solution too. They belong to a team that must establish trust and positive communication with people who live with dementia. SCIE’s awareness course supports staff develop these skills while its web content including e-learning and Social Care TV videos provides a useful back-up. A care home manager said to me: “In such a busy working life, SCIE is the most practical and accessible resource that I go to straight away.”
A national user movement is challenging the existing narrative about what it is like to live with dementia. The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) brings together groups of people with dementia from across the UK and supports them to try to change services and policies that matter to them. One of DEEP’s recent publications, Our Dementia, Our Rights, argues that people with dementia often miss out because of the stigma associated with the disease.
All of these factors can lead to poor care: Lack of knowledge among professionals; services which cut corners to save money; and poor leadership. Yet dementia, the report argues, is a disability as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The way people with dementia are often treated can contravene the Humans Rights Act. Many people with dementia say they do not get the care and support they want and need. Staff should be encouraged to reflect on the implications of this shift in perspective and managers must demonstrate their commitment to a rights-based approach to dementia care.
The numbers of people who are affected by dementia now or in the future is in some doubt. But whatever the number, people’s rights need to be recognised and met with dignity and respect. In this way, they can live and die well with dementia.