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We all have a role in supporting people living with dementia.

Published on 15 May 2024 12:14 PM

As the CEO of Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire, one of the things that makes me most proud is our amazing Dementia Services Team, who do so much to support people living with dementia - from the time they are diagnosed right through until their needs become more complex and care based.

However, the responsibility for supporting people along this journey is far broader than any one provider or sector - and rightly so. The King's Fund recently highlighted the role of Integrated Care Systems in improving dementia diagnosis and whilst this is absolutely the case, their co-ordination function is vital in all aspects of support and care delivery.

Support for people with dementia requires collaboration between multiple health, social care and voluntary sector providers and crucially the person themselves and those who are closest to them. The ICS provides leadership, facilitates collaboration and aims to ensure that individuals receive holistic care tailored to their unique needs.

As a Charity, we are a member of the ICS Programme Board which is responsible for strategic delivery of Dementia Services. One of our team chairs the Worcestershire Dementia Partnership Board which is responsible for co-ordinating the broader support offered by a range of organisations. We have also developed and continue to maintain the Worcestershire Dementia Services Directory, which is downloadable from our website here and is an up-to-date resource listing organisations that provide help and support.

More locally, we are involved in the various Dementia Action Alliances which seek to support groups, businesses and organisations to identify practical actions that they can take in order to be more dementia friendly. We are also working in care homes to support staff there to develop their skills in working with residents living with dementia with the aim of improving the experience of both those providing the care and those receiving it.

The wider voluntary sector has a significant part to play and there are many different services available across Herefordshire and Worcestershire, with activities tailored to meet the diverse needs of people living with dementia. From helplines to respite care, these services provide practical assistance and emotional support to people living with dementia, their caregivers and loved ones.

Our Dementia Services Team are particularly passionate about addressing the stigma surrounding dementia. They believe that doing this is paramount in ensuring that people come forward to be assessed and once diagnosed, receive the support they need as soon as possible.

Through educational campaigns and community outreach initiatives, we strive to raise awareness, increase understanding, and promote early diagnosis and intervention. These interventions are varied to suit the individual. One to one support for those who are coming to terms with a diagnosis, dementia cafés which provide social support for the person living with dementia and their carer, and Meeting Centres which provide more structured activities for the person themselves.

Our Maintenance Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (MCST) Courses are showing some very exciting results, indicating evidence of slowing down progression during the time of the intervention. We are doing all that we can to make these as widely available as possible and are due to launch an MCST course in Hereford this Summer.

Charities also have a role to play in influencing policy at a local level, ensuring that health and care strategies reflect local need and give dementia the appropriate priority given the number of people affected. National charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society also play a massive part in supporting research into dementia prevention, treatment, and care and facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries into practical interventions that positively impact the lives of those affected by dementia.

The key to this work is collaboration and a shared commitment to providing person-centered support which is tailored to the individual. We all have a role to play in doing what we can to improve the lives of people living with dementia.

This week, I will be reflecting on this and looking to how we can best continue to ensure that we at Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire can play our part in ensuring that those affected by dementia and living in our two counties, receives the support they deserve.