Worthing hospice St Barnabas House is developing its care services to provide better support for people with Dementia at the end of their life.
National trends are showing that Dementia is becoming one of the most substantial challenges to healthcare providers in the United Kingdom, and St Barnabas House is adapting its services to meet an increasing demand for specialist support.
In November 2016, the Office for National Statistics revealed that Dementia has now overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
It was reported that more than 61,000 people died of Dementia in 2015, 11.6% of all recorded deaths, with all types of cancer as a group remaining the most common cause of death overall.
Last year, thanks to the generosity of the local community, who raised over £24,000 insupport of its Spring Appeal, St Barnabas House was able to launch a new Disease Specific Nursing Team. This team was developed to enable the hospice to provide more specialist support to patients with other end-stage conditions, in addition to the cancer patients it has always traditionally cared for.
One of four new specialist nurses employed by St Barnabas during 2016 is Aurora Leighton, the hospice’s new Dementia Lead Nurse. The role was established with the intention of making the organisation more ‘Dementia-friendly’ through training and awareness, sharing knowledge through her experience, and making improvements to the hospice environment, such as better signage.
Andy Burt, Director of Adult Nursing at St Barnabas House, said: “Aurora joined us last year, following a career spent in Dementia and Mental Health specialist nursing. “Her knowledge, passion and enthusiasm has already made a significant difference to the care we are now providing. “Every day she is helping all of us at St Barnabas to become better at supporting people living with Dementia through their end of life care need, and this care extends to relatives and carers as well as patients.”
Mr Burt said the increasing demands of an ageing population, with an ever-growing number of people living with Dementia, means it is important that the hospice acts now to ensure it is prepared for the future.
“It has been a massive step forward for us – but we know the journey ahead will only get harder,” he said. “The demand from patients living with Dementia over the next 20 years will be enormous. “For those under 65, only one in 688 will be diagnosed with some form of Dementia. But for those over 80 years old, that increases a hundredfold; one in six will have Dementia in some form.
“St Barnabas cares for a community that is home to a large number of retired people who will call upon us over the next 20 years.“Creating this new Dementia Lead Nurse post, and welcoming Aurora into the role, has been just the first step towards preparing St Barnabas to help meet the increasing demands of our local community.”
Since she started in her role at the hospice, Mrs Leighton’s expertise has already made a positive impact, both at the hospice and in the local community. She has developed a pack of equipment to be used either in a patient’s room at the hospice, or taken out and given to family carers in their own homes. The pack includes simple things like a CD player so that patients can listen to their favourite music, whatever resonates with the patient. It also includes a portable fish tank which many patients find soothing and relaxing, ‘twiddlemuffs’ which help to provide sensory stimulation, and memory boxes which encourage short-term memories by stimulating long-term recollections.
The pack also contains specialist items, including an information board where nurses can write down key facts a patient might forget such as the name of their lead nurse or the next time their family are due to visit.
The other significant part of Mrs Leighton’s role is to improve awareness of Dementia within the organisation through training and sharing her knowledge.
Mr Burt added: “Aurora has been providing sessions to clinical and non-clinical staff. She has visited our shops to see how we can improve signage, she’s sharing her knowledge with local care homes, and she’s providing guidance and support to staff and volunteers who have a loved one living with Dementia.”
Mrs Leighton said: “I’m here to help St Barnabas become ‘Dementia friendly’ – so we can ensure that whenever we encounter a patient, or relative, affected by Dementia we can respond in the right way and give them the support they need. My role different to the other specialist nurses in the sense that I do not have my own caseload. There are currently 11,000 people in our catchment area who have been officially diagnosed with Dementia, and obviously we do not have the resources to look after all of these people. In order to be referred to St Barnabas House, there must still be a need for specialist palliative care input, and not just a diagnosis of Dementia. Last year we provided care for 34 patients with Dementia, and while we are still expecting a similar number of referrals to the hospice, my role is to ensure that we can provide better specific care for these people.”
In this year’s Spring Appeal, St Barnabas House is asking for support of the local community in order to continue to provide specialist support for people with Dementia for many years to come.
Mr Burt said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has previously supported us and those who donated to last year’s Spring Appeal, and we hope that you will be able to support us again this year.”
If you would like to find out more about the work being done by Aurora Leighton, or if you would like to make a donation to the St Barnabas House Spring Appeal, you can do so by visiting www.stbh.org.uk/springappeal2017.