The way we care for people with dementia needs a new and different approach, according to a leading care home professional. Care England reports that the Head of Dementia at Orchard Care Homes, Hannah Miller, has said that the priority must move from simply prolonging life, to encouraging greater quality of life for people with dementia.

Miller was speaking at the Care Managers Show at the NEC in Birmingham, which brings together care home managers and other leading professionals in the sector. She said that the standard approach to dementia care focused too much on the condition rather than the individual, and often outdated and stigmatising language was used about them.

Miller used examples such as the term ‘EMI Unit’, which refers to Elderly Mentally Unfirm and applies to advanced dementia patients who need round the clock nursing care. She drew attention to other common labels such as ‘wandering’, ‘aggressive’, ‘non-compliant’ and ‘resistant’, that are used to portray a stigmatised image of a person with dementia.

Instead, Miller calls for a drive towards more stimulating care environments that allow dementia patients to become mentally and physically more active. She points out that many ‘negative’ behaviours may be the result of distress caused by inappropriate care, rather than symptoms of the condition. 

She said: “We need to support people to live fulfilled and happy lives – not merely focus on being alive. For decades, expression of distress has been labelled as caused solely by dementia. This is not the case – people are responding to their needs and feelings. We need to recognise behaviour is a form of communication.”

“Frequently Benzodiazepines or Antipsychotics are used to reduce behaviours. These mask true causes of distress and are harmful over long periods.”

Speaking about the reaction to her speech, Miller added: “The event was a huge success and both sessions went really well. There was plenty of interest and many people came to me after to say how they had found it useful and enjoyable.”

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive neurological conditions. Typical symptoms include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with planning ahead, and problems with speech and communication. Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, and it’s one of the leading causes of death in the UK.

Most people do not die directly of the condition, although it is a terminal illness. In the later stages of the disease, the patient loses control of their movements and eventually cannot walk, sit up or feed themselves independently. This in time leads to a weakened immune system, so they are more prone to infections such as pneumonia. 

Life expectancy for people with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is eight to ten years, although this will vary depending on the age they were diagnosed, and any comorbidities. 

2024-07-09T13:48:18+00:00July 9th, 2024|Blog|
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