Action needed on dementia care

During the summer recess, I visited Alzheimer Scotland’s office in Edinburgh to hear about their work to raise awareness and provide support for people with dementia.

The charity provides a range of support including day centres, in-home assistance, drop-in centres and support groups.

Dementia is the progressive loss of the powers of the brain and it affects over 11,000 people in the Lothians.  Alzheimer Scotland’s website provides a range of information about the condition.

The charity is working to increase knowledge about the condition to tackle the stigma associated with it.  It has been estimated that the number of people with dementia will double in a generation so it is vital that support services and knowledge about the condition are prioritised.

A particularly significant issue for the charity is post-diagnostic care – the arrangements made to support people with dementia once it has been identified.  This includes arrangements for the recording of care plans and support to help families caring for elderly residents.  The charity has identified that some of these issues aren’t currently being addressed.   The forthcoming dementia strategy offers an opportunity to improve the support offered by our health and care services.

The issues highlighted during the meeting at Alzheimer Scotland chime with the findings of a recent inspection at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

The inspection highlighted a number of positives – particularly in relation to the compassionate approach of health care staff when caring for elderly patients and the work done to consult and involve patients and their families in decisions about patient care.

However, the report also highlighted a range of areas where improvement is required.  Inspectors noted the inconsistent approach to screening for cognitive impairment and confusion over who is responsible for conducting the screening.

There was also evidence that information obtained from screening was not always being recorded in patients’ notes and that there was only limited information in care plans outlining the individual needs of patients.

Being in hospital can be a stressful situation and this is particularly the case for people with dementia.  The unfamiliar surroundings can cause confusion but well planned care plans can help staff to reassure patients.

Following on from the inspection, I have written to NHS Lothian to ask what action they are taking to address the issues identified in the report.  I have also entered a freedom of information request to find out more.