Health and Wellbeing

Health Minister told Devon is leading the way in dementia care

Older person and carer

Posted on: 14 August 2012

Devon County Council is leading the way in support for people with dementia, a leading expert has said.

Ian Sherriff,  who’s a Trustee for the Alzheimer’s Society and advisor to the Government on dementia care, has described Devon as leading the way in support for people with dementia.

Health Minister Andrew Lansley met council leaders in Devon today.  And the authority’s strategic director responsible for care, Jennie Stephens, told him: “Care for people with dementia is everyone’s responsibility.”

Health Minister Andrew LansleyMr Lansley heard the Devon authorities’ plans and roles in supporting the growing numbers of people with dementia and their carers.

The number of people aged 85  in Devon already stands at levels that the rest of the country won’t reach until 2026.

He heard how care funding,  which was held by health authorities but  has now passed to local  councils ‘  control, is positively helping Devon to ensure important services, including dementia support, are receiving the financial help they need.

But  he was also  told that the responsibility for supporting people with dementia rests with everyone; local councils, health authorities, the voluntary sector as well as local communities themselves.

Devon’s leaders say relatively small levels of Government funding could make enormous differences to people’s lives as they live with dementia  –  often in their own homes.

The county is working towards David Cameron’s vision of having ‘dementia friendly communities’, with a Dementia Friendly Parishes  programme currently progressing around the  River Yealm project  in, South Devon.

The project, focused around five  parishes, aims to raise awareness of dementia within their communities to such an every day level that everyone, from the village shop keeper to the local bus driver, are able and willing to lend support to individuals in their community with dementia; essentially helping them to continue living independently for as long as is appropriate, as opposed  to long term residential care.

Elsewhere, a number of Devon’s schools are taking part in the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge, and are exploring ways of developing children and young people’s understanding of dementia.  The work is being lead by Angela Rippon, the PM’s Champion for dementia.

The County Council has committed millions of pounds in funding to support people with dementia . Plans are under way to create up to ten Centres of Excellence for people with dementia and their carers  with other investment in extra care housing designed to accommodate people with dementia.   Investment  is also being targeted to the private sector to help private residential care providers improve their businesses to help meet the growing demand for specialist dementia care.

In  the autumn  Devon is hoping to award a contract that will see new Dementia Support Workers across  the county who will be assigned to people on diagnosis of dementia, to work closely with them and their families to help them receive the support they need.

An important part of the local support is through the county’s network of 37 memory cafes, and here the County Council has been instrumental in providing start up funding and training to help local communities run their own memory cafes.  So far over 200 memory café volunteers have receive dementia awareness training.  Around 20 different voluntary and community organisations support Devon’s memory cafes, reflecting the diversity of voluntary sector provision.

Devon’s Library Service has also extended its traditional role to include support for people with dementia.  Memory Groups are run from a number of the County Council-run libraries, combining reading aloud and shared discussion and memories.  Libraries also deliver books and audio books to about 300 locations in residential and sheltered accommodation to people unable to get to their library.

Working in partnership with the Council, NHS Devon is helping Devon lead the way.  Training for GPs is improving rates of diagnosis and increasing GPs’ understanding of the support needed.   Common approaches to dementia among GPs across Devon are also improving patients ‘  health and wellbeing.

And in some Devon hospitals, services are identifying and assessing people with memory problems, but who may have been admitted for other medical reasons.  Evidence is showing that these teams, recognising signs of memory problems, dementia or mental ill health, are not only improving patients’ experience while in hospital, but also their health and wellbeing.

Devon County Council  leader, John Hart, attended today’s dementia briefing with the Minister.  He said after the meeting:

“ I am pleased Devon has been recognised as leading the way in terms of support for people with dementia.  We need to  be providing innovative help and support because demand is greater here than in most other counties.

“Under our leadership, Devon is investing today in services that will help meet people’s care needs in future.  But we reminded the Minister that responsibility for dementia must not lie just with statutory authorities, it must lie with every single one us; with this Council and NHS Devon, in our excellent voluntary sector, right down to communities helping themselves.

“That’s where we see our greatest value in supporting local communities, and that’s where I believe with even relatively little Government funding, communities can develop their own safety nets to support people who they know and care for every day.

“The Minister will leave Devon today with the clear knowledge that the county is doing fine work in this vital area of care.”

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