Sara Deakin, practice development matron for older people and dementia, on dementia awareness
This week is dementia awareness week. So what can we
do to help the people we care for and their families live well with dementia?
I have been a nurse for just over 30 years and in that time
I have seen massive strides in knowledge and treatment of cancer but more
significantly the reduction in stigma associated with the disease.
Celebrities openly share their diagnosis and treatment.
Angelina Jolie to name but one appeared in numerous newspapers and celebrity
magazines sharing with the world her decision to undergo bilateral mastectomies
to reduce he risks of developing breast cancer.
Whilst the tide is changing with dementia it is currently
the most feared disease amongst adults over the age of 50years.
In 1597 Sir Francis Bacon said
‘Knowledge is power’. Without knowledge we struggle to understand and make
important decisions. We need to use Dementia Awareness week to inform and
improve knowledge of people across society but also to focus on reducing
the stigma associated with the disease.
Secondly we need to support and enable our staff to provide
dignified, compassionate and truly person centred care.
A significant part of my job focuses on training and
education of staff. Not just nurses and allied health professionals but
non-clinical front line staff such as porters, ward waitresses, cleaners,
phlebotomists, ECG technicians and ward receptionists.
I encourage staff to see every person who has dementia as a
unique individual. Someone who is a mother or father, brother or sister,
husband or wife.
During his treatment for aggressive terminal cancer in 1995
Kenneth Schwartz said:
“Quiet acts of humanity have felt more healing than
the high-dose radiation and chemotherapy that hold hope for cure”
He stated that is was the compassion shown by staff to patients
can make all the difference to a patient’s experience of care.
These small acts of humanity are what mater to all our
patients regardless of what disease they have but for someone who has dementia
and is being cared for in hospital, a frightening and alien place, these acts
of compassion are even more important. Being called by their preferred name, a
smile and acknowledgement as you go about your work makes a difference.
However, I truly believe the most precious gift we can give anyone is time, something
we all complain we don’t have enough of.