Stagnant. In that one word, the nursing home resident summed up the situation perfectly. Dementia care is failing the elderly. If you suffer a heart attack, you will get the latest high-tech treatment and care. However, if you develop dementia, the likelihood is that you’ll end up in a nursing home, bored and waiting to die.
The Irish-born businessman, Gerry Robinson, has produced a new two-part television series on the care of patients with dementia. He wanted to put the spotlight on dementia care and examine the general level of care that prevails in many care homes throughout the UK. The dementia care system is antiquated and lags far behind achievements in medicine and care elsewhere. Gerry was shocked by what he found. In most of the homes he visited, he found that the elderly rarely received one-to-one attention and were left to ‘stagnate’ in soul-less lounges, bored with nothing to do. He also found that the staff in the homes had a staggering lack of specialist training to understand the complex needs of people with dementia. Health and safety regulations conspired against offering patients stimulating care.
It was not all gloom and doom however. Gerry visited one nursing home in Warwickshire that manages to make residents feel alive and happy. Residents are actively involved in helping to run their home. This approach not only works on an emotional level, but it makes good business sense too. This home is rated as ‘excellent’ and is always full. The staff are valued, so the recruitment and training costs are low. Everyone wins.
Gerry’s message is simple… “There is too much box ticking and not enough emphasis put on human contact. Dementia sufferers lose their memory but not their ability to feel. They feel joy, excitement, pleasure, pain, hurt, anger, loneliness or hopelessness and feel them intensely. This makes our duty of care to them vital.”
Good care does not have to be expensive care. We need to change the focus of dementia care from one of keeping people alive, to one of helping people to enjoy the final years of their lives in a happy and truly caring environment. Quality of life should be the number one priority. One day, it could be you or me.
The final part of this series will be shown next Tuesday, 15 December @ 9pm on BBC2 .