New drive to improve care of dementia patients

Alex Neil. Picture: Robert Perry
Alex Neil. Picture: Robert Perry
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A commitment that will “significantly improve” the care of dementia patients comes into effect from today.

People with the disease will be cared for by a named support worker who will tailor individual treatment and help families understand it.

It is part of the government’s national dementia strategy with 300 carers working with patients from April.

The commitment is based on advice from Alzheimer Scotland who want to improve care standards.

Since November, 14 Alzheimer Scotland dementia nurses have been working in each of the country’s health boards to improve the quality of life for people with the condition, as well as their carers and families, within hospitals.

Up to 86,000 people are estimated to have dementia in Scotland, and the number is expected to double over the next 25 years, according to the government.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “From personal experience, I know what it means to have family members with dementia get the dignified care they deserve.

“Being diagnosed with dementia must be a tremendously difficult time. It also places huge strain on partners and families.

“That’s why I’m delighted that this commitment is in place - it shows just how much we prioritise older people’s care.

“This additional support will help people with dementia and their families and carers in adjusting to the diagnosis, navigating through the range of services available and planning for future care.”

A current patient who took part in a trial of the care programme said the commitment is “brilliant news”.

Henry Rankin, from East Renfrewshire, said he felt isolated when first diagnosed with vascular dementia and struggled to come to terms with the illness.

“It was dreadful, absolutely dreadful,” he said.

“There’s no other way to describe it. I didn’t even know what vascular dementia was. I thought it was all over, that I had six months left to live.”

Mr Rankin was then asked to take part in a pilot of the Alzheimer Scotland programme and was cared for by Tracy Gilmour.

He said: “I can’t praise Tracy highly enough, she put me at my ease straight away. She reassured me, gave me my confidence back.

“Getting my diagnosis had knocked the wind right out my sails, but she got me back on track. She spoke to my family too, gave them lots of information and advice.

“Best thing was; she was always there. We could speak to her at any time.

“They need to get diagnosis and post-diagnostic support right for people with dementia and their families. I’m glad the government’s made a commitment to making that happen. It’s brilliant news.”

Henry Simmons, chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “We are delighted to see the post-diagnostic support guarantee now being rolled out across Scotland.

“This is a world-leading commitment. We are convinced that this will transform the lives of people with dementia, their partners and families, who for too long have been forced to come to terms with their diagnosis alone and unsupported.

“While this will greatly improve support to those newly diagnosed, we must also tackle the wide-ranging problems currently faced by people with dementia, their carers, partners and families who are at a later stage in the illness.”