Sufferers of dementia are renowned for their forgetfulness and recognised by their tendency to repeat the same questions over and over. I first came across this when I opened a nursing home called Newfield House in Coventry in 1987, which specialised in looking after people with dementia.
My very first blog in February 2010 was about dementia and I have regularly been writing about it ever since. (You can see my earlier blogs by clicking on “Dementia” in the TOPICS LIST). In fact I have written more posts about dementia than any other single topic. Now it seems other writers in the media are following my example.
A recent conference in America was reported on in The Times. It repeated a story about “Overuse of drugs to treat dementia”. It should be no surprise as the Department of Health raised the issue earlier this year. (You can see my blog “Doctors in two minds” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).
Looking back a few years and again the story surfaced in the findings of a report of research at Harvard University. The study found that pensioners who regularly took pills for insomnia and anxiety were more likely to develop dementia. (You can see my blog “Hooked on Pills” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).
In Newfield House and in the five further specialist nursing homes we built, the first thing we did was reduce the levels of drugs the residents were prescribed. It made the residents more difficult to manage and regularly repeated questions were part of the daily life of the home. The key difference between then and now, were the staff. Thirty percent of the care staff were qualified Registered Mental Nurses, as was the Nursing Home Manager. They were supported by NVQ trained care staff and between them and the relatives of the residents, they established care plans which were personalised to each resident. The staff were hugely committed and had the patience of Job.
Sadly, with reduced staffing levels and severely constrained costs, the chemical cosh is now the silently tolerated treatment for dementia.
It seems as though it’s not only people with dementia who constantly repeat themselves, but also reporters, researchers and successive Governments.