Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Care homes warned over dementia

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Carer
Dementia affects about 700,000 people in the UK each year

Care homes need to improve their approach to people with dementia, a report by a firm of health and social care analysts has concluded.

Laing and Buisson found training was "fragmented and ad-hoc" with a third of homes failing to provide staff with specialist instruction.

The survey of 6,000 UK care homes also questioned the care provided.

It said only 57% of home residents affected by dementia were cared for in settings "dedicated" to the condition.

The figure rose to two thirds once all those who ended up with dementia while in care homes were taken into account.

The number of people in Britain with dementia is expected to more than double to 1.7m by 2051.

Ministers have already pledged action, promising to improve services, including those in care homes, in their dementia strategy published earlier this year.

In less than 15 years there will be a million people living with dementia, we need to gear the while of the care home sector to delivering good dementia care
Neil Hunt, of the Alzheimer's Society

Laing and Buisson said the care home sector had started to revamp its services, but there were still serious gaps in provision.

Training was highlighted as a key area that needed addressing, with an estimated 248,000 people in care homes suffering from dementia.

The research also suggested that the aim of reducing the use of anti-psychotic drugs to sedate dementia patients would increase the need for better services.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said the findings were a "sad indictment of the current state of dementia care".

"In less than 15 years there will be a million people living with dementia; we need to gear the whole of the care home sector to delivering good dementia care."

Concern

And Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, a charity which represents elderly people with caring needs, said: "This report should give cause for concern."

He said the Care Quality Commission, the new health watchdog that was being launched in April, needed to make the issue a priority.

Martin Green, chief executive of English Community Care Association, suggested NHS and social care chiefs were starving the sector of money.

"Providers suffer from a lack of vision and innovation by commissioning bodies - who tend to commission block contracts at low cost for minimum services.

"What we need is commissioning that understands the complexity inherent in supporting people with dementia and delivers the resources to develop intensive one-to-one bespoke services."

Meanwhile, Prince Charles is set to call for more of a focus on dementia in a statement to open the the Alzheimer's Research Trust's annual conference in London later.

He will say: "Sadly, dementia will have an even greater impact as, in the future, the risk of dementia increases as people live longer, and the emotional, social and economic burden we all will face if this threat is left unchecked will be catastrophic."

Care services minister Phil Hope said he wanted to see care homes take a more active role in the management and care of people with dementia.

"The national dementia strategy will improve the quality of care in care homes."

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