Why I Have Dedicated my Career to Caring for Those With Dementia

26/09/2012 10:33 BST | Updated 24/11/2012 10:12 GMT

I have been working with people with dementia for over 20 years now, most recently in my role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Dementia Care, at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW). I have worked in all types of environments, from mental health institutions to nursing homes, and I have seen many different ways people with dementia are cared for. However from all my years of experience, I've come to believe the best treatments are those that prioritise person-centred care.

It is often the case that patients with dementia are admitted to hospital for another primary illness. Dementia is an issue on many hospital wards, regardless of the illness the patient originally came in with and it is important all staff from porters, staff nurses to senior clinicians are taught how to communicate and interact with someone with dementia appropriately.

Since working at UHCW, I have constantly been working with other nurses and carers to seek new ways to improve the care we provide for people with dementia or confusion. The Trust has a long history of practices designed to raise the standards of care for those with dementia and confusion, to ensure all patients are treated with dignity and respect.

Since 2004 I have promoted the use of a 'Getting to Know Me' form that the Trust adapted from research carried out by the University of Stirling which ensures person-centred care is delivered. It is very important that this form is completed on a patient's admission to a ward as it allows staff to learn about the personal interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes of a patient, which can lead to a better understanding about the individual and their behaviour.

At the beginning of this year, we set up the Forget-Me-Not Campaign, which aims to improve awareness of dementia amongst the public and all staff. Through this campaign, we have set up the Forget-Me-Not Lounge, a place for patients with dementia and their loved ones to relax and feel comfortable. We have also set up the Memory Lane, which is a collage of 210 tiles depicting local scenes, family events, the war, the Cathedral and sport.

In addition, we have introduced the Forget-Me-Not Challenge, where we place a discreet picture of a Forget-Me-Not flower over the bed of anyone that staff feel may need some extra vigilance checks, reassurances or assistance. Not having the picture does not mean less care is given; the symbol just helps staff to more easily identify patients who need extra support.

The Forget- Me-Not Challenge continues to be a great success, with lots of positive feedback from relatives who feel comforted that staff are being made aware that their loved one is confused and so may need extra support in smaller tasks.

Training all staff is essential for successful dementia care to be delivered. At UHCW we provide different levels of dementia awareness training from basic sessions that all staff are invited to attend to sessions directly aimed for clinical staff. We hope to provide a more advanced level of learning in the near future for those who want to learn even more.

The responsibility placed on those who care for patients with dementia is huge and that person can be entirely dependent on you. 'Alzheimer's affects 500,000 people in the UK, with a further 300,000 affected by other forms of dementia. Despite this, it is a condition that is not yet fully understood, but is something we need to get a fuller grasp of for as we live longer, many more of us will suffer from dementia or a related illness. It is for this reason that I have dedicated my career to helping patients with dementia, as it is disease that affects us all.