It was a moving and compassionate account published in recent months in the Mid Sussex Times about a reader, living with dementia, which inspired the Newtons Surgery Patients’ Participation Group to dedicate their first Workshop to the subject of ‘Understanding Dementia’.
This brain disease to which one in three of us will, in some degree succumb, can be socially isolating for both the person who is ill and their carer, unless the right support is put in place as early as possible. The Patient’ Group at Newtons saw this as a golden opportunity to use the subject to promote further public understanding of the disease.
To this end three speakers were invited to present different perspective of the support given to those who are diagnosed with dementia as well as their carers.
Dr. Nagendra, a GP at Newtons Practice, with responsibility for geriatric care, gave a brief introduction to the medical aspects of the group of more than a hundred diseases commonly referred to as dementia of which Alzheimer’s is the most common and the best known.
All but one of these, that being alcohol and drug induced dementia, are progressive and incurable. If a doctor suspects a patient has memory loss he/she will be referred to the Memory Clinic where psychological tests and a brain scan will give a definitive diagnosis.
The patient will then be referred back to the GP whose statutory duty is to set up a care plan within the 30 minutes that he/she is allowed. At no time during this assessment is any compulsion put upon the patient.
At this point Jennie Morrison Cowan, Trustee and worker for Know Dementia, a locally based charity, picked up the story.
Too often at this stage there is little or no communication between the care services and she sees her role as making sure that neither the person with dementia nor their carer is left isolated.
She is there to see that both parties are given the care and support necessary to have the best quality of life possible within their own community.
Amongst other things that her charity provides is a drop in centre for those who fear that they or their loved ones have a memory problem but are not yet ready to talk to the doctor.
This is all done in complete confidentiality, as there is no obligation for the information to be passed on.
Tim Wilkins, Service User Involvement Officer for West Sussex Alzheimer’s Society, concluded the workshop with a comprehensive outline of the many services that are available to those living with dementia and their carers which can be accessed by contacting him.
He emphasised the importance of getting in touch with organisations such as his, before talking to the doctor, to get advice on setting up a care plan, thus making maximum use of the Doctor’s time.
Also available is an advocacy service, advice on choosing a care home and much more.
Without doubt a diagnosis of dementia is a shock, but with the help of outside agencies such as Know Dementia and the Alzheimer’s Society, the doctor will willingly and without financial incentive, agree a care plan that will give the person concerned and their carer a future with a good quality of life.
The added bonus will be if they can live in an understanding community who see those with Dementia as just ordinary people who happen to have a bit of a memory problem. This is what all three of the speakers saw as their number one priority.
If you wish for any more information concerning dementia care please contact:-
Alzheimer’s Society Sussex Helpline: 01403 213017
Know Dementia: 01273 494300 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured is Jennie showing her audience a simple solution to just one of the problems for those with dementia. If the medication and other vital information are put in the bag by the carer, before visiting the doctor, the hospital or other support agencies, the purpose of it will be recognised. It will make the occasion much less stressful all concerned.
Report and picture contributed by Helen de Hoop.