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The race to better diagnose and care for those affected by dementia

With around 10 million people in Europe estimated to be living with dementia by 2040, the race is on not only to find a cure but to find better ways of diagnosing and providing care for those affected by dementia. The Association for Dementia Studies (ADS) at the University of Worcester has played, and continues to play, a key role in the latter two.

Expert researchers in ADS have been instrumental in influencing public policy, both within the UK and Europe, while at ground level training and informing those on the front line of care.

In the ever-increasing drive to enable people to live in their own homes for as long as possible, health and social care services need to find new and better ways of supporting more people living with dementia. Similarly, hospital staff must receive adequate training when people are admitted to acute settings.

Work by Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of ADS, and her dedicated team, has seen significant benefits in both of these areas. The team worked with the Royal Wolverhampton Hospital Trust to devise a programme to improve services for patients with dementia who are admitted to hospital with a physical illness. Focusing on the hospital environment, nutrition and hydration, and communication, the Dementia Care Bundle, devised by the two organisations, came top in the Patient Safety in Clinical Care category of the Patient Safety Awards 2012. It is now featured on the Health Foundation’s Patient Safety Resource.

ADS also worked with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust to develop the Enriched Opportunities Programme (EOP), an intervention to support people living with dementia in housing schemes. The Programme showed that by providing a proactive and integrated service between health, social care and housing services, people with dementia could be supported to live in  extra care housing rather than having to move to care homes or spend lengthy periods in hospital. The Programme has subsequently so far been rolled out in 14 retirement villages and 17 smaller housing developments, having a direct impact on the lives of more than 2,000 people.

In addition, to this work, the experts at ADS have been involved in a major European research programme – ALCOVE (Alzheimer’s Co-operative Valuation in Europe) – focusing on the timely diagnosis of dementia. The aim was to enhance the wellbeing of persons with dementia, by increasing knowledge and understanding and developing preventative and care recommendations for health care policy and practice across Europe.

ADS’s research has fed directly into UK policy debate on dementia. Further, the associated development of a ‘toolbox’ aimed at limiting the use of antipsychotics in dementia care has begun to inform care practice.