Back in February 2009, the Department of Health launched the National Dementia Strategy. It is aimed at heightening awareness of the condition, ensuring early diagnosis and intervention as well as significantly improving the quality of care that people with dementia receive.
Over the first two years, the initiative will be backed by £150 million and so far proposals have included the introduction of a dementia specialist into every general hospital and care home. Another idea has to get been mental health teams to assess people with dementia.
As for backing, the Alzheimer's Society is firmly behind the strategy, saying that if implemented, it will make a significant difference to both the lives of those with dementia and their carers. The organisation notes, however, that transforming dementia care within five years is a big task that will need a variety of organisations and individuals to be committed, including health and social care professionals.
So what have Barchester been up to in this area? Recently, workers from five Barchester homes were invited to the fourth annual UK Dementia Congress. Before the event, Sheena Wyllie, Director of Dementia Services at Barchester Healthcare, said: "The UK Dementia Congress is an important event for everyone working with people with dementia in a care setting and so it is always an honour to be a asked to present at such a prestigious event."
Sheena was keen to point out that Barchester is continually advancing the services and support it provides and emphasised the organisation's position as a leading dementia care provider.
The UK Dementia Congress took place at Harrogate International Centre from November 3rd to 5th 2009. Organised by the Journal of Dementia Care, the theme of the event was the implementation of the National Dementia Strategy for England, as well as the corresponding plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the conference, Ms Wyllie had this to say: "The subject of dementia is now being openly spoken about and not kept behind closed doors. It is now being spoken about in normal voice tones as opposed to whispered hushes. What we now need to do is to raise these voices a little more to highlight the discrepancies and inequalities that people with dementia experience whilst living in a care home."
Sheena commented on the distinct lack of understanding around what it takes to support people with dementia and stressed that there needs to be greater consistency about what support is actually out there.
"It is shameful that even after 20 years of knowledge about being person centred, we should as a society have moved on from needing our awareness raised about dementia and moved on to truly understanding the lived experience, but actually we have not," she commented.
"If you look at the National Dementia Strategy, it is suggested that care homes are going to be phased out and that there'll be more people being supported within their own homes but there's been no mention of where the real funding is going to come from," Ms Wyllie continued. She added that she did not think care homes would be eradicated, but they may have to change what they provide and in the way they provide support.
As for what the government has been up to since the announcement of the strategy, care services minister Phil Hope recently said he wants to build on the initiative. Even though £32 million in dementia research last year, he stated, there is much more needs to be done "to make the most of existing opportunities".
These comments came after he announced the launch of a new action plan designed to deal with over prescribing of antipsychotic drugs to people with dementia. The move was in response to a Department for Health-commissioned independent review by Professor Sube Banerjee.
It showed that too many people with dementia are regularly prescribed antipsychotic drugs to treat aggression and agitation, even though this is not in accordance with to National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence guidance.
The action plan includes a new National Clinical Director for Dementia as well as steps to make sure that people with dementia and their carers are able to access psychological therapies to tackle the cause of agitation and aggression.
So it appears that bodies are working to deliver on the aims of the National Dementia Strategy, yet more needs to be done. Time will tell how much of the initiative's aims will be achieved.
Click here for more information about Barchester's dementia care homes.