When people with dementia get admitted to hospital, their need for fundamental care can be high. Everyone coming in to hospital wants to be treated with respect and dignity by health care workers who have the time, resources and training needed to keep them safe and well cared for. But having dementia can put people at higher risk of not having these needs met.
Research to date has highlighted the poor hospital experiences that can go with having dementia. These experiences are not only to do with the symptoms of the disease but can be to do with other factors such as multiple ward moves, environments that are hard to navigate, and lack of contact with familiar people. In addition, staff don’t always feel well equipped or supported in providing high quality care to this important group of patients, estimated to make up 25% of hospital patient populations.
Many NHS trusts are beginning to address these issues but this is in the absence of a solid evidence base to guide the efforts made. More research into the fundamentals of dementia care in hospital would support the NHS and others in developing and using the most effective systems and approaches to care.
Much of dementia research to date has focused on prevention, cure and slowing the progression of the disease. But until this research bears fruit, we have to work out how best to care for this growing group of people.
At CLAHRC Wessex we have recently recruited three NHS research clinicians – a dietician, and OT and a acute care nurse – to examine the issues around nutrition and communication to support people with dementia and their carers.