Scanning through the newspapers, we are never short of a story about our ageing population and the effects that longer life expectancy is having on many of the services we rely on. Campaigns such as Dementia Awareness Week are important in changing public perceptions, but with the estimation that at least two million will be people living with dementia by 2050, how can the health and care sectors deal with this challenge?
It is no secret that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to providing care for those living with dementia, as there are many different types and every individual is unique. But what is becoming clear is the need for care providers to prepare their services for the future.
We read or hear about some of the probable causes of dementia and the investment in research and studies to prevent future generations from developing the condition, but what is often ignored is the importance of implementing practical, innovative ways of helping people who are living with dementia right now.
When working day-to-day with residents, it becomes apparent that even the smallest changes can have the biggest impact. For example swapping baths for showers if that is what an individual is used to, or accommodating an early breakfast if they have always been an early riser. These adaptions allow the residents to feel more comfortable in their surroundings and enhance their quality of life.
At Anchor, we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality dementia care to our residents and a commitment to person-centred care is pivotal to us delivering this. We are constantly working alongside our in-house dementia experts who have helped us develop a new, innovative model of care called Anchor Inspires which seeks to fully understand and enhance the lives of people living with dementia.
It focuses on four key areas of specialist care - memories, safe living, activities and companionship. Each element is essential and looks at different aspects of a resident's personality and environment.
Working with families is a key element of the specialist care we provide at Anchor, and is a core part of the 'companionship' element of Anchor Inspires. Relatives can often contribute valuable memories and belongings that can help their family member living with dementia. At our care homes we use photographs to provide opportunities for residents to reminisce, and work with family members to ensure each individual's surroundings are tailored to meet their needs and similar to their living environment prior to moving to the home, where possible.
Small changes to help residents adapt to the care home environment can have a huge impact, as often confusion, memory loss, and anxiousness are common symptoms. It is these adaptions that should take priority for the care industry, and the delivery of person-centred care.
Looking ahead, we are concentrating on how to provide the best care and quality of life for people living with dementia but also providing adequate support to their families. Our guide for families about supporting someone living with dementia is available here.
So, let's keep focussing on ways to prevent dementia in the future and to invest in research to examine cures, which will undoubtedly make a huge impact on future generations. However, let's not forget those people living with dementia now - who deserve to be recognised first and foremost as individuals, rather being defined by their condition.