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Press release / Dementia care campaigner voices concerns over new government strategy

After years of waiting, dementia care campaigner, Anne Challenor-Wood, has welcomed the government’s announcement of a National Dementia Strategy, but warns that more support is needed for sufferers post-diagnosis

The government’s five year plan includes the proposed introduction of memory clinics in every town in England, with doctors given extra training to help diagnose the condition.

“I’m particularly pleased that this much-awaited announcement includes the need for more education and training, but I’m concerned that the initiative doesn’t go far enough in addressing what’s actually needed:  a complete change in the way this country understands and cares for people with dementia” commented Anne Challenor-Wood, founder of See Change in Dementia and Convivium Care, who has both personal and professional experience of caring for people with dementia.

“It’s all about changing the approach.  Care audits have shown that in many nursing homes residents receive ‘neutral care’ for the majority of the time; for example being left sitting in a lounge with nothing to do and little communication.  In worse situations, there are cases of ‘negative controlling care’ with residents being told to “stop wandering around and sit down”. Life with dementia in these situations can be pretty distressing but it needn’t be like that. I have seen nursing homes that are full of activity, stimulation, and genuine warmth from care staff, where the residents are fully valued and respected as individuals.

“Positive communication between carers and people with dementia is critical. When a person’s cognitive ability deteriorates, feelings become even more important and it’s vital that carers learn to understand the world from the point of view of the person with dementia. This will enable them to provide more appropriate and sympathetic care.”

“It’s great when you see people that continue to lead an active life despite their dementia. One lady we provided care for over many years, who had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2001, was still able to enjoy exciting activities like speed-boating and go-karting with her carer. If an activity took her fancy, her carer would investigate the safety aspects and then do their best to make it happen. One day they both drove past a small airfield and the lady said she’d love to go up in an aeroplane – so they did. She loved it!”

Anne believes that this active life helped to slow down the process of her decline and that this approach can be applied to people with dementia in other settings such as care homes.

“If anyone sits in a room all day with nothing to do they are likely to become frustrated, depressed, or agitated and their cognitive abilities are likely to lessen. This is equally true for people with dementia. Just because their cognitive abilities become limited due to the damage which the condition causes to the brain, it certainly doesn’t mean that they do not require stimulation or communication.”

“Only by improving the quality of care provided and removing the stigma that surrounds dementia will the quality of life improve for the growing numbers of people who suffer from it.”

Anne’s experience of dementia started 17 years ago when her mother was diagnosed with the condition when just 69 years old.

“For the final nine years of her life she didn’t know who I was.  It’s extremely tough for everyone affected. The experience with my mother over many years and my intensive training with the Alzheimer’s Society has really alerted me to the massive improvement that is needed in the overall quality of dementia care provided in the UK.”

As well as training care staff, Anne aims to improve awareness about dementia among people in their local communities and will be running the first of a series of workshops in the South West of England this year.

“Professional training and community training are equally important if we’re going to make a difference here” said Anne. “I’m hoping to attract third-party support from local authorities, primary care trusts and private organisations to help fund these events.”

Anne will also be offering courses to professionals, including GPs and hospital staff, to complement the government’s clinical training programme by providing insights into the daily challenges of living with dementia.

Her new company, See Change in Dementia Care – www.dementiatraining.co.uk – provides audits of nursing home care as well as ongoing support, training and assistance to devise strategies for change. Anne is also the registered manager of Convivium Care, an agency with excellent government rating for providing 24 hour live-in care to elderly people in their own homes across the South West of England.

Anne can be contacted on 01761 239029/232689 or visit www.conviviumcare.co.uk to find out more about live-in care.

The Alzheimer’s Society predicts the number of people with dementia – currently 700,000 – to rise to 940,110 by 2021; and to 1,735,087 by 2051.