Jo Wood, Hospital Discharge Care Advisor, CHS Healthcare, based at Medway Hospital
Half of the patients we organise care packages for have dementia. We support families to find the right care for a loved one and it’s important to find what’s right for that individual. If the person requiring care has dementia, our first action is to find out as much as possible about them and how they were before they were affected with dementia. You have to get a picture of someone as a person, not someone with a disease. For example, if someone was gregarious and had an active social life, then I would look at larger care homes that have all sorts of activities going on – from gardening, singing and dancing and even visits from zoo companies with meercats and sheep. If someone was less outgoing, then I would suggest a smaller home, with fewer group activities, where they could participate in one-to-one activities and spend time in their room, so they don’t feel overwhelmed by lots of people.
The Alzheimer’s Society has created The Butterfly Scheme and we use their assessment with the friends and family to find out all about the patient and what they did before the illness progressed. It’s all about finding the right care where they will be comfortable and as happy as possible.
I recently did a search for a home where a lady wanted to watch squirrels out of her window. I found one for her with big gardens, with squirrels, rabbits and birds!
Ideally, people are placed as close as possible to their loved ones, so they get regular visits, but the family will ultimately make the decision.
We will find three or four homes for a family to visit, and we will come along with them to support. When visiting a care home, I do advise people to look closely at the care that is being provided. Fancy fish tanks and chandeliers may look great, but who will be looking after their mother? At a care home, talk to the manager and ask lots of questions. When is the laundry done? Is there a visiting hairdresser and chiropodist? Do they have visits from a district nurse? How are they going to care for another condition like diabetes?
Some people prefer to be cared for in their own homes. We’ll work with them to make this happen and we’ll help them to develop a relationship with the carer and adapt accordingly. Some of our clients want to care for their loved ones in their own homes, which we can help with. Things change as the disease progresses, and we are there to review care needs as things change.
Of course, people can have good quality of life with early stage dementia and continue to do what they have always done – seeing friends, walking and watching sport for example. And later on, by organising care that suits them, they can still be listening to jazz, looking at their stamp collections and watching squirrels if that’s what makes them happy.