Dementia: Understanding a growing problem Addenbrooke's style
Specialist Dementia nurse Jacqueline Young is aiming for more dementia awareness
Building awareness of a growing dementia problem across Cambridgeshire is the driving force for specialist nurse Jacqueline Young.
Ms Young, 51, is playing a major role as Addenbrooke’s takes part in Dementia Action Week in a region which, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, has more than 11,000 estimated cases – giving it one of the highest rates in the country.
Dementia is not a disease in itself. It is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. This happens inside specific areas of the brain, which can affect how sufferers think, remember and communicate.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are other types too. It is possible to have more than one type of dementia at the same time.
This week, Cambridge University Hospitals pledged to have at least one ‘dementia champion’ on every adult ward, rather than limit them to those that cater solely for the elderly.
Dozens of nurses, healthcare support workers and others have been trained in best practice and will cascade that knowledge down to colleagues with the ultimate aim of extending it to everyone in the trust, including outpatient staff, pharmacy workers, security and volunteers.
Dementia champions help identify those who need referral to specialist nursing services and signpost patients and their families to support groups, community services and other resources which can help.
As well as the slogan ‘Forget me not’ signs and blue wristbands which identify patients with dementia, the trust is rolling out its ‘What’s Important to me’ posters which are placed behind patients’ beds and prompt staff and visitors to ask questions about subjects that are deep-rooted in a sufferer’s memory, aiding conversation.
Ms Young said: “I’ve always been interested in the cognitive side as people get older. Everyone is so different in how they progress and that can be hard for the carers and family.
“People’s awareness of dementia is getting better. It has been helped in the last week with Barbara Windsor’s situation being highlighted by her husband.
“People don’t always talk about it for lots of different reasons, but I think we are getting better at raising awareness.
“We group dementia together but there are lots of different types. There are lots of people out there to help but carers don’t often know where to go.
“We can’t halt it or cure it currently, but there is a lot of research going on.
“It is our aim to make our trust as dementia friendly as possible and this is an important step forward.
“For a long time we have had dementia champions on our department of medicine for the elderly (DME) wards, but it is not just people over 75 that develop dementia.
“The increased number of champions will make sure that patients with dementia who are not on our DME wards receive the same level of specialised care and are referred to the specialist nursing team.”
Dementia affects around 850,000 people across the UK and at any time there can be around 250 patients with dementia at Cambridge University Hospitals, over a quarter of the bed capacity.
In the national dementia audit, CUH were ranked joint first out of 199 hospitals for nutrition.