One third of all dementia cases worldwide are the result of risk factors which could be modified to help prevent the disease earlier in life, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed.
Speaking at the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s (QNI) dementia conference in London on 12 June, Jamie Waterall, associate deputy chief nurse for PHE, laid out how health checks for people aged 40 and over could be the key to spotting signs or causes of dementia.
He said: ‘Problems in the body, especially the heart, often relate to the brain. Factors such as a smoking habit, poor diet or lack of exercise, could well be increasing patients’ risks of developing dementia.
READ MORE: Chance to merge mental and physical healthcare 'must not be missed'
‘We need to extend the 40+ health check programme so nurses in primary care are prepared to make patients aware of the additional risks their lifestyles may incur later in life.’
The event in Euston brought together dementia specialists and project leaders with primary care nurses to discuss next steps for dementia care, treatment and prevention nationally.
Professor Waterall was joined by John Clark, director of nursing at Health Education England (HEE) South. Professor Clark used his speech to lay out HEE’s goals for dementia training over the coming years.
He said: ‘We need to make sure healthcare staff are appropriately equipped to deal with dementia. We want all staff to have reached Tier 1 of our three-tier training by 2018. Currently, 800,000 NHS staff have reached Tier 1.
‘We have developed two more in-depth tiers of this training to make sure people working regularly with dementia are working at their best for the benefit of patients and their carers.’
READ MORE: First community dementia service for South Wales launched
Caroline Ellis, a memory assistant nurse with Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, explained her trust’s Support Talks and Educational Memory Sessions (STEMS), which follow up on a dementia diagnosis by giving patients and families an opportunity to meet with representatives of the various public services in place to help with day-to-day management of the disease.
HEE presented two short films – collectively titled Finding Patience – at the event. The first part was designed to encourage BME (black and minority ethnic) people to engage more with the signs of dementia in their relatives, while the second focussed on the strains and struggles of later-year dementia on both families and healthcare staff working in care homes.
Dr Christine Wise, a former academic, spoke at the event of her choice to leave work and become a full-time carer for her husband after he was diagnosed with young-onset dementia at age 56.
READ MORE: Dementia overtakes heart disease as leading cause of death
With her husband in the audience, she said: ‘We know this is a battle we will lose and I already miss him. We have a very good local authority and they give us nine hours a week of support so both of us can continue to feel independent.’
Hilda Hayo, chief Admiral nurse and CEO of Dementia UK, told the audience about Admiral nurses’ specialism in family-focussed dementia care and encouraged any interested attendees to contact her charity about joining the project.