Caring for someone with dementia is a huge challenge. It is hard on families, spouses and friends to support someone when the 'real' person seems to be slipping away, and their personality changes beyond recognition. Nurses who work in dementia services are experts at helping individuals with dementia to manage their condition for as long as possible and prepare for the future. They have a key role in supporting families.
The QNI and the Alzheimer's Society recently completed a series of awards to nurse-run dementia projects to improve services or fill gaps in services. We funded a group for women with dementia in Shropshire and a project in Newcastle that brought together people with younger-onset dementia to learn how to manage their illness for as long as possible.
In North Wales, by chance, we funded two dementia projects: one, in Rhyl, set up a series of workshops for people with dementia and their families to learn about the condition and how to cope and plan. The other, providing specific couple support for dementia sufferers and their main carers, took place in Colwyn Bay.
I was invited to catch up with both projects at an event for mental health nurses. Both are still running, and expanding across the trust with the support of the multi-disciplinary team. One now also uses the workshop materials on a one-to-one basis, for people who don't want to attend the group. The other has produced a workbook and provides teaching so that other nurses can run the same programme in their area.
Both the nurse leads of the projects have become Queen's Nurses. But the most exciting part of the day was the comments on the projects from service users and their families. A woman with dementia who attended one group said that it was the best thing that had happened to her. The husband of another said that the group was a lifeline, and he didn't know what they would have done without it.
To make a difference in such a difficult area of work is just amazing.