“How many of you know someone with dementia?” was a question asked of the large audience at the Members’ event in the Post Graduate Centre on 26th February. 75% put up their hands and were told that this percentage was likely to increase to nearly 100% in a few years.
The first speaker, Dr Raad Nari, Lead Consultant in Elderly Care and Dementia Services for the Trust, explained that there were three types of dementia:
- Alzheimer’s, caused by the destruction of brain cells due to deposition of Amytoid protein;
- Lewy body, which shares characteristics with Parkinson’s Disease; and
- Frontal temporal dementia caused by the degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, usually affects younger groups;
- Mixed types of Dementia.
He illustrated these symptoms and what causes the problems with a model of the brain. Dr Nari also showed a very moving DVD, “Jennifer’s Story” in which a General Practitioner explained how she had to retire early because of the onset of dementia. She explained what she could and could not cope with and what confused her. But the real message to take away was her words “Now and forever I am still me”. Dr Nari picked up on the confusion and worry aspect saying that it was important that dementia patients spent as short a time in hospital as possible as these were unfamiliar and therefore upsetting surrounding. He demonstrated this in part by showing anonymous parts of some patients’ hospital case notes. Dr Nari concluded by outlining the Trust’s aims for improving dementia care and the hope to be designated as a Dementia Friendly Hospital. He emphasised that dementia was not just an old people’s disease and that this was important to remember.
Carrie James, the Lead Nurse for Older People, told the audience that there were 15,130 people known to have some type of dementia in Surrey and that within eight years this was likely to reach nearly 20,000. Carrie explained what was being done to increase ward and department staff awareness, to adequately train staff and how the Butterfly Scheme works (it is worthwhile looking up www.butterflyscheme.org.uk to find this described in detail).
Dr Vineet Prakash, Consultant Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Physician, was the final speaker. He spoke about the difficulties of diagnosing dementia as symptoms overlapped with other conditions and there was no single test. Showing illustrations of scans, Dr Prakash helpfully added to the information given earlier by Dr Nari with his model of the brain. He emphasised the need for a multi-disciplinary diagnosis, including doctors and nurses, and including evidence from family members.
The interest in this subject was evident from the questions to all three speakers, and it was also helpful to have Dr Matthew Hagger , Old Age Psychiatrist, in the audience to contribute. There were clearly gaps in the care both in the hospital and in the community. One questioner asked what can be done to avoid getting dementia and while a healthy diet and lifestyle recommended to help prevent types of vascular disease, could not be guaranteed to stop the onset of dementia, it would help.
Yet another very interesting and informative afternoon. Will you be at the next one?
Written by Keith Bradley, Governor for Woking