Charities welcome plans to introduce early dementia assessment service

A progress report published on 8 November gives an update on the first seven months of the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge, which aims to achieve improvements in dementia care and research by 2015.

The report outlines the aims, achievements and ambitions of the challenge’s three champion groups, i.e. creating dementia friendly communities that understand how to help, driving improvements in health and care, and improving research.

One of the main issues raised in the report included the government’s plans to cut dementia diagnosis times and raise dementia diagnosis rates from the current 42%. The charities Lewy Body Society and Parkinson’s UK welcomed the proposal for earlier dementia assessment, but raised concerns over the urgent need for staff training and better referral pathways straight away, to help primary care practitioners recognize the presence of Lewy body dementias.

Unlike Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementias exhibit visual hallucinations and problems with movement. According to Cecilia Yardley of the Lewy Body Society, ‘Where the condition is not recognized, people with dementia and their families can experience years of fear and anxiety without help. The lack of training of some health and social care professionals can leave people with Lewy body dementias poorly supported. In the worst cases, antipsychotics, which can be fatal for someone with a Lewy body dementia, are still being wrongly prescribed.’

An emphasis was also placed by the Lewy Body Society and Parkinson’s UK on the needs of people with Parkinson’s, who have a higher than average risk of developing dementia. Despite the government’s commitment to improve detection rates for dementia, Daiga Heisters, head of professional engagement at Parkinson’s UK, argues, ‘To provide fully-rounded care, healthcare professionals must pay attention to the changes in mood and thinking that can accompany movement problems in advanced Parkinson’s. We’re calling for better pathways of care so that people who have developed Parkinson’s dementia receive an accurate diagnosis and the support they need to live life to the full.’

The right diagnosis is of the utmost importance in order that the patient receives the appropriate treatment and support. Cecilia Yardley says, ‘one size’ does not fit all, and so the services offered to the individual need to differ depending on whether they have Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies.

Taken from Practice Nursing, published 23 Nov 2012.

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