I enjoy reading Glyn Davies’s blog, “A view from Rural Wales”. He covers different topics, many with a political slant, and though I don’t always agree with him I agree with his recent posts on dementia care.
On January 9th his post entitled “EVIL” contained the following:
Remember Harold Shipman. He was a very evil man – a GP who murdered well over 200 people, mostly elderly women. He was found guilty of murdering 15 of them in 2000, sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he never be released. He hanged himself in Wakefield Prison on 2004. Not many will have mourned him. I anticipate that all visitors to this blog agree that to kill over 200 people, mostly elderly is a terrible evil. Research by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust , widely reported today, informs us that 23,000 elderly people are being killed, every year, by the over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs, often given just to keep them quiet. Is it possible to think of anything more evil ?
I was in Cardiff yesterday, with other representatives of the company, meeting civil servants to discuss how we can best introduce an ‘advocacy scheme’ to serve the residents in our care homes. We want the residents of our homes to have ready access to an ‘independent’ service which will fight for their interests. This is not a wholly straight forward ambition to achieve. But the more time I spend thinking about issues surrounding dementia, and delivering care, the more concerned I become that the Government is not remotely geared up to face the challenge that longevity brings with it.
He did another post on January 23rd, part of which reads:
Away by 6.00 this morning to chair a conference at the Technium Centre, near Bangor. Actually it was to chair jointly with former MEP, Eurig Wyn. Conference was sponsored by RESEC Cymru – that’s Research into Specialist Elderly Care. RESEC is based in Oxford University, and has recognised devolution by establishing a Welsh ‘branch’. It was a terrific Conference, even if the agenda was such that there was not much room for interaction with the 130 plus crowd who turned up.
Anyway, thanks to Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister for flying up to open the Conference. I do think dementia is starting to receive the higher level of awareness it deserves. Keeping momentum through the inevitable lower public spending that’s coming will be a challenge. I learned a lot today.
DEMENTIA CARE continues to be a challenge. It’s changed unbelievably since I trained as a Psychaitric nurse in the late 1960’s, when wards had 60 beds, but it hasn’t changed enough. Dementia care just isn’t keeping up with all the research being done.
Way back in 1983, when I was in charge of a ward caring for people with dementia for the first time, the Consultant and I agreed to stop giving psychtropic drugs. There were some wonderful staff on the ward at that time and we carried out research into promoting continence too, as well as getting rid of the awful “Buxton chairs” that were still in use at the time.
The changes were quick and very noticeable. people were moving around and talking to each other. yes there were a few more accidents, but none too serious, and some risks have to be worth taking. Incontinence improved too, with a lot of hard work by the staff, I have to say.
I left the NHS in 1995, and in 1997 I began working in privately owned Care Homes, becoming a manager in 1999. What an eye-opener that was! Care Homes are staffed mainly by care assistants who work for minimum wages. Many (though not all) are not interested in the work, they want to do as little as possible because they are paid so little.
Staff training is difficult because so many of the staff are not motivated to learn or to improve the care they give. That being the case tranquilisers are still over-precribed because otherwise the staff do not know how to deal with “difficult” people.
Until the staffing problem is solved it is going to be extremely difficult to improve the care we give to people with dementia. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of the organisations in Wales could get together and find a solution? Someone must have the will (and money) to sort this out, and Wales could be a leader in dementia care.