There has been much focus on the issue of dementia in the last five years from policy to front line practice. It is estimated that 800,000 people have dementia in the UK and we expect this to double in the next 30 years. The focus on the condition and its impact on those living with it and their carers will not abate in the years to come.
Nurses play a critical role in the early identification and detection of the signs and symptoms of dementia, the referral for timely diagnosis and in the support needed after diagnosis. The relationship that exists in primary care between the patient and nurse is key, as many of the patients will be known by the nurse and some will have existing comorbidities. This contact becomes more important at diagnosis as it has a life changing impact on the patient.
A dementia diagnosis is not the end but a new beginning. The fatalistic and negative attitudes which often surround this increasingly prevalent condition have to be broken. Creating a positive, proactive response allows people to plan their future care and seek appropriate support. The services currently available are diverse and sometimes inconsistent. A multiprofessional, clinical service which provides continuity, rapid response in times of crisis and which can be quick to advise individuals about their needs as they change is what people want and need to live well and stay active.
Leading this change in approach, Red and Yellow Care funded a report, published in association with the Alzheimer's Society, into living well with dementia. The report, A Good Life with Dementia, dispels myths and negative perceptions of the condition.
Supporting people with dementia to live well and maintain an active lifestyle is critical. Community-based nurses are well placed to signpost the voluntary sector, social services, carer support networks and provide resources and information within their localities. This is important throughout the changing course of the condition. Nurses are pivotal in making a meaningful difference as they help people with dementia seek support and plan through to end of life.