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With dementia set to increase by an average 35% in Wales over the next 20 years, are we doing enough to meet the dementia challenge? Age Cymru Chief Executive Ian Thomas give us his opinion.
Dementia remains one of the key challenges for the government and people of Wales.
There are an estimated 45,000 people in Wales with dementia at the moment and government figures show this is set to rise by 35% in the next 20 years.
When the Welsh Government published its 2011 response to dementia in Wales – ‘the National Dementia Vision for Wales – dementia supportive communities’, it was a proportionate response to dementia in Wales.
However, when we compare that with the dementia plan in England and the profile that dementia had had with the UK Government, the reaction to dementia in Wales pales into insignificance and has been subsumed by other health agendas. For me the purpose of the National Dementia Vision for Wales was to set targets, get them adopted and then monitor their progress till completion. In my opinion this clearly has not happened here.
At this stage, the National Dementia Vision for Wales is an aspiration only and the Welsh Government has not achieved what it set out to do in the National Dementia Vision for Wales.
My overall concern about the National Dementia Vision for Wales is the lack of progress that has been made in improving dementia care in people’s homes.
The reason for this is that we have seen a degradation in domiciliary care with scandals around 15 minute visits by paid carers to people’s homes – I’ve even heard of cases of people having to choose between toileting or eating because there isn’t enough time to accommodate their care needs during their 15 minute visit.
There is even less money in the system now than there was at the time National Dementia Vision for Wales was published (arguably) as local authorities are governed by budgets that have seen decline in real terms. I am very concerned about this and I am convinced that the situation has worsened rather than improved.
Another big area of concern is the need to improve dementia care in general and community hospital environment. This is a massive area that, depending on who you talk to, may not have been dealt with very well up to now.
This links clearly with the need for staff training and the question I would pose is this – ‘With the growth in dementia and the growth in the numbers of older people who will be more likely to develop it, can the NHS in Wales afford not to invest in a mandatory training programme for all staff in this area?’
Improving access for people living with dementia to intermediate care is the big one – effectively this means is getting people out of hospital when they don’t need to be there. Evidence shows that some people are having prolonged hospital stays because there are no resources available to get them back living in their communities if they are well enough to do so.
I’ve also seen evidence that some hospital staff are risk averse when it comes to letting people with dementia – no matter how slight, to go back into the community. This leads to hospital beds and nursing homes being filled by people who shouldn’t be there.
With our ageing population, clearly the dementia challenge is one that we must rise up to and meet nationally. Providing people who live with dementia with the care that they need must be a priority and Age Cymru will work to ensure that this happens.
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