Better training needed for rising number of dementia residents

26 February 2013
Dying Matters and the National Council for Palliative Care are calling for improved training of staff following publication of a report claiming that less than half of the 80 per cent of care home residents with dementia or severe memory loss enjoy a good quality of life.

The Alzheimer's Society report, 'Low Expectations', found that more than 320,000 of the 400,000 people living in care homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now have dementia or severe memory problems.

It found that while "excellent care" does exist, standards of care generally remain unsatisfactory. The charity is calling on the government and care homes to work together to strengthen existing minimum standards to boost quality of life. 

The report found evidence of a deep-seated pessimism about life in care homes. Of 2,000 adults surveyed, 70 per cent said they would be scared of going into a care home. The main factor almost half would look for when choosing a home would be staff training. 

Two thirds of those surveyed did not feel the sector is doing enough to tackle abuse in care homes. The charity argues that public attitudes and scepticism about whether people with dementia enjoy a good quality of life in a care home is leading to a failure to drive up standards of care. 

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council of Palliative Care and Dying Matters, said: "As this new Alzheimer’s Society report shows, one in three people over the age of 65 will die with dementia, and many of them will be living in care homes before they die. That’s why it is essential that care home staff are properly trained in meeting the end of life care needs of people with dementia to ensure that they are cared for with compassion and dignity right until the end.

"Quality of care does vary, but we know that care homes with trained and confident staff can provide superb care, and there’s no good reason why all shouldn’t be doing the same. The Prime Minister has identified dementia as a national priority and challenged all of us to do what we can to improve the lives of people affected by dementia. We therefore must also make sure that GPs, community-based and specialist services are available and actively supporting their local care homes so that people living in them do not become a hidden population unable to access the range of services they need to ensure they live and die well.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "Society has such low expectations of care homes that people are settling for average. Throughout our lives we demand the best for ourselves and our children. Why do we expect less for our parents? We need the government and care homes to work together to lift up expectations so people know they have the right to demand the best."

Around one in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia in their lifetime.

Our Dementia resources

Dying Matters and our lead charity, the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC), have produced a range of materials designed to offer advice and guidance to anyone caring for someone with dementia.

How Would I Know What Can I Do?These include: 

How Would I Know? What Can I Do? A guide for carers on how to help with pain and distress in people with dementia, published as part of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge. Download 'How Would I Know? What Can I Do?'

Difficult Conversations for Dementia - aimed at dementia carers, paid or unpaid, it offers advice on different ways discussing end of life care can be approached. (Price £5.00; NCPC subscriber price £2.50). Buy Difficult Conversations for Dementia

Time to talk leaflet Time To Talk a leaflet to help families, friends and carers of people with dementia start important conversations abut the end of life. Download Time to Talk

The Power of Partnership: Palliative Care in Dementia Written by clinical and policy experts, this title examines the need for stronger partnerships between dementia care and palliative care services to bring about improved care for people with dementia at the end of life. (Price £15.00; NCPC subscriber price £7.50. Buy The Power of Partnership: Palliative Care in Dementia

Dying Matters is also producing a DVD, 'Time to Talk, Doc?', a training resource to help GPs initiate and progress end of life care conversations with people affected by dementia. 'Time to Talk' is out soon.

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