Wednesday, 21 May 2014

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.

Why?

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.

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