Pauline Watts on how every nurse can make a difference to dementia

Pauline Watts photoIn my guest blog  I want to tell everyone about the really important work that is taking place on Making a Difference to Dementia, through the contribution of every nurse – Not just those working directly with people suffering from dementia, not just those working in a hospital or care home setting!

Before I talk about the work, I want to restate what I am sure you already know, that dementia is one of the biggest public health and care challenges that we face.  Many of you will have cared for or have personal experience of someone who has dementia, as I have. My mum had Alzheimer’s and passed away some years ago but I will never forget the journey; her care, good and bad. If so you will know how important the nursing contribution was and is to the experience of the person with dementia and their carer/family.

Back to the work that is taking place, I have been leading some work on the contribution of all nurses to the dementia agenda. The DH alongside a group of expert key partners and nurses with a special interest in dementia care, have set out how a full range of nursing roles and skills can make a difference to a person with dementia and their carers at every stage of the journey. This includes from public health messaging, awareness raising and reducing social stigma to end of life care and post bereavement support.

The first product of this work called Making a Difference to Dementia: Nursing Vision and Strategy  was launched at the Innovations Expo on 13th/14th March and was very well received by a wide range of partners and nurses. The document was discussed at a well attended seminar, alongside video clip of someone with dementia and a moving account from a Carer of her and her mother’s story. Comments included how participants had been moved by the content of the workshop. Quotes included ‘I cried at the video…it was so moving’ and ‘I had tears in my eyes’. Comments such as  ‘I want to be a first follower’ and ‘I want to share this when I get back to work…it is so important’ indicated commitment to be a leader in this work and to share the information more widely.

The Expo event was fantastic; it demonstrated that people can live well with dementia and showcased innovation and good practice through a dementia friendly community within a dementia village. It provided an opportunity to explore and understand some of the things that can help to improve the care of people living with dementia in line with the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia.

However, more importantly for me, it presented an opportunity to talk about the importance of every nurse to the dementia agenda, demonstrate the nursing contribution and the real difference that can be achieved through making every contact count.  An opportunity to help nurses think differently about dementia and to restate commitments.

People with dementia and their carers’ have told us what they have experienced and need. They want supportive communities, advice, sign posting to services, timely support, assessment and people with the right skills and attitudes supporting them, independence and understanding. Finally they should have compassionate and expert care during their experiences of living with dementia whether it is in the community or in a hospital, at home or in a care home all the way through to palliative, end of life and bereavement care. People also tell us that high quality nursing care makes a real difference and can have a massive impact on the experience.

The ‘Making a Difference to Dementia’ Nursing Vision and Strategy’ is the first of several documents to support nurses and to make sure that this happens. Help to spread the word that making a difference to dementia is every nurse’s business, whatever specialism or work setting.  I hope that you will read the publication and share it widely with your teams, colleagues and friends to support the wave of change and to maximise the contribution of every nurse to this really important agenda.

Be a leader or follower but have courage and commitment to make a difference!

Pauline Watts

Professional Advisor

Follow me on Twitter @PaulinWatts

You may also be interested in  The Right Care – creating dementia friendly hospitals

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