The Government has announced a new iniative on this, which is to spend £50million making hospitals and Care Homes “dementia friendly” .
I am intrigued, because hospitals by their very nature are strange environments for people with dementia. What possible miracle can they come up with? Or are they just trying to grab another headline at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference to counter the bigger headline, which is ” 1 million is the true figure for U.K. Dementia cases “.
So I looked at the Government website which indicated that they had been working on this issue since 2012. Now their second phase of the programme was focused on implementing the “Dementia Friendly Hospital Charter” which has been produced by the Dementia Action Alliance.
The charter is a brief pamphlet – just six pages long – which spells out in straight forward language what they think hospitals and care homes should do to make themselves more age friendly. It has 8 sections which cover staffing / partnership / assessments / care / environment / Governments / feedback.
In total the brochure contains 40 separate recommendations, some of which are blindingly obvious, such as:- (my observations are in blue)
- Staff should be trained in dementia awareness; Whilst this is obvious, it doesn’t often happen in hospitals or care homes because of the frequent use of agency staff.
- Encourage patients to eat and drink; All too often there have been reports demonstrating that this doesn’t happen. Usually because residents need one-to-one assistance / encouragement.
- Appropriate staffing levels and skills mix; The biggest ommision in these recommendations is that there is no quantification of staffing levels or skills mix and without appropriate staffing, very little else can be achieved.
- Flexible visiting hours; This is an essential measure to facilitate patients seeing a familiar face as frequently as possible. Unfortunately many hospitals are not visitor friendly.
- Assessments should be carried out to rule out other treatable conditions; This is an indication that patients are frequently mis-diagnosed and therefore inappropriately treated.
- Stimulating activities should be available. This is a very good suggestion but in 30 years working with hospitals I have only very rarely seen this happen.
This is a well intended report with a lot of useful recommendations. But they are only going to work if there are sufficient qualified staff to ensure the recommendations are followed. That’s much easier said than done and it will take a lot more than £50 million to implement this approach.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS HOSPITALS ARE NOT FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENTS FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA.
In my view it would be better to concentrate resources on developing specialist dementia homes where people could be treated in a more domestic style environment.