Bolton is fighting a ‘dementia crisis’
DEMENTIA is the condition most feared by those over 50 and one of the leading causes of death in the UK.
September marks World Alzheimer’s Month, part of a continuous battle for awareness by organisations to end the stigma surrounding the degenerative condition, in an attempt to drive diagnosis rates, early detection and education about what can be done to limit the aggressive nature of dementia
In Bolton, around 2,334 people over 65 are living with dementia, according to the charity Alzheimer’s Society. However, only 76.4 per cent of people estimated to be living with dementia in Bolton have received a diagnosis and care leaders in the area are striving to ensure people take action.
Barry Lyon is the Alzheimer’s Society services manager for Bolton, Bury and Wigan. He says that the fear of dementia is so strong that people are often put off seeking help: “There’s still an estimated 25 per cent of people who are undiagnosed in Bolton who may not be comfortable with accessing services.
“Getting a diagnosis is so important because the symptoms could be for something else, we’re all thinking of about 500 things at the same time.
“It can be very scary, it’s about breaking down those barriers. We’re on a long journey with people’s approaches to dementia, we’re dealing with years of stigma. It can leave people feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
“People need to know that it’s not genetic and it’s not a natural part of ageing, it’s a medical condition. We need to reassure people that they can live well with dementia, you can take medication — it doesn’t stop the disease but it can slow it down.”
Although early diagnosis is essential to adjust to life with dementia, Alzheimer’s Society says that the country is in the midst of a “dementia crisis” with the UK’s ageing population. More people living longer, therefore more likely to develop dementia, means an increasing number of patients relying on health and social care systems with limited budgets.
By 2025, the charity estimates there will be 3,725 people over the age of 65 with dementia in Bolton and approximately 1,991 people aged between 30 and 64 with dementia in the North West.
The national picture will see a similar expansion. By 2025, one million people will be living with dementia in the UK, with that number set to double by 2050, says the charity.
Care leaders are calling on councils to take action to improve the health of, and support available to, people affected by dementia.
Mr Lyon said: “It’s a massive challenge that we are having to come to terms with and it’s going to get bigger with the ageing population. It’s getting into people’s psyche exactly what dementia is, so now we have to work on how we look after people with dementia and how we pay for that care.
One way Bolton has been tackling the burgeoning crisis is by raising awareness of dementia and making hospital stays less challenging for patients and their families.
The Royal Bolton Hospital has just appointed its first Admiral Nurse. The Dementia UK-run scheme provides a nurse to focus on the most complex of dementia patients and their families.
Kerry Lyons, who recently joined the nursing team, supports staff to offer compassionate care to all patients with dementia and relatives. She has also introduced clinics for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust staff who are carers and may need advice.
Ms Lyons said: “Great dementia care means being cared for by an informed workforce who adapt care to fully meet your needs whether you are a person living with dementia or as a carer for a person living with dementia. “At the Royal Bolton Hospital we recognise individuality and understand that if you have met one person with dementia, you have met just one person – each person is unique. Being the trust’s first Admiral Nurse makes me feel truly privileged with an opportunity to ensure improvement – raise awareness and increase support for people living with dementia and their carers.”
Other improvements to the hospital’s efforts include the use of activity boxes with reminiscence items, special wall vinyls to make the wards appear less clinical, and the introduction of communal café areas. A care team now provides distraction therapy for patients including those with dementia. Activities take place such as arts and crafts, singing, movement and sensory activities.
The Bolton trust’s “Donate £1 for Dementia” appeal, supported by the Bolton News, has paid for a number of improvements including special clocks throughout the hospital.