Why should your practice become dementia friendly?
People who live with dementia, diagnosed or not, and their carers, need support to live as well as they can. You probably have between fifty and one hundred patients over 65 with a diagnosis, and up to another fifty who have not been assessed. You also probably have two or three younger patients living with undiagnosed young onset dementia.
People living with dementia have difficulty making and remembering appointments and therefore miss appointments. They need reminding.
Then they have to get to your surgery. They may have to wait for thirty minutes or more in the waiting room; this is unfamiliar and disorientating, and may may increase confusion and agitation.
Can patients affected by dementia book easy access appointments so they don’t have to wait when they arrive? This would avoid agitation and DNAs.
Are your premises decorated in a warm friendly colour scheme? Are floor coverings unpatterned? Is your patient toilet dementia friendly, with a contrasting colour toilet seat and colour coded taps?
People living with dementia need clear signage in places that are unfamiliar. They benefit from specially designed signage, with good colour contrast, large lettering and use of symbols.
People living with moderate to severe dementia often have difficulty explaining their pain and symptoms. They may be unable to tell you what is wrong. They need extra time and use of simple techniques such as touch and pictures or diagrams.
A person with dementia may think your staff are attacking them when they attach a blood pressure cuff, or prepare to take blood or examine them. Your staff therefore need to be trained to be aware of this and the techniques they can use to get round these perceptions and behaviours.
Customer facing staff, ie all your clinical, pharmacy and reception staff, need to speak slowly and clearly, without being patronising, and make sure they look at the person with dementia when they speak. They also need to ensure that the person is looking at them. They need to be aware of likely behaviours of people with dementia and the causes. Aggression or rudeness is usually the result of confusion and agitation and not deliberate. Behaviour is only “challenging” to the person who does not understand.
Carers find it hard to get support and can find themselves at the end of their emotional and physical tether. Do you know which of your registered patients are carers? If this was recorded and flagged you would be able to make every contact count by asking simply if they are ok and coping, or if they would like some support, perhaps by talking or help accessing respite.
I can help you develop your practice to be dementia friendly. I can organise dementia friends awareness sessions for all your staff. I can walk around your premises with you and look at improvements that could be made. I can signpost you to contacts and resources to help you.
Becoming dementia friendly and aware, you can support your patients to live as well as they can with the condition and stay as healthy as possible, and you can increase understanding of dementia in the community. You will also help carers to remain healthy and fit and able to provide the good, loving care they want to provide.
It’s not expensive. It doesn’t have to all happen at once.
Why wouldn’t you want to do this for your patients and your community?