More help for younger dementia sufferers

Posted on Wed, 27/08/2014

A unique specialist centre is Gateshead is helping younger people with dementia cope with the condition and spend more time living in the community with their families.

Although dementia is often associated with older people sufferers who are diagnosed in their thirties, forties or fifties will often require specialist care, because most services are designed around the need of pensioners.  

The Gateshead Younger People with Dementia Service (GYPDS) is trying to raise awareness of the condition and highlight the services now available for patients under the age of 65 who are diagnosed with the disease.

The Woodside Unit run by QE Gateshead is a unique service providing care for people with early onset dementia using a specialised day hospital and community outreach support. This important work is helping reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and supporting people to live longer at home with their families.

Sadly this seems to be a growing problem with day care places increasing by 50 per cent since 2009 and predictions are for further increases.

Emma Prendergast a nurse who manages the service said: “Patients who are diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65 have complex needs because services are usually organised around the needs of much older people. The traditional healthcare services are inappropriate for younger patients and their families, especially if the patients are in their thirties or forties.

“Woodside gives people a place to go and build new peer relationships, maintain skills and learn how to manage the symptoms of their illness. As part of our service we can support patients through diagnosis and provide much more flexible care through our outreach team which includes things like transport, community support, carers support and medication monitoring. Ultimately we aim to reduce the number of people going into residential care by supporting complex patients five days a week at the Woodside unit.”

This dedicated support is proving invaluable for patients, but also for their partners and carers. Recent research by the service found that 32% of the patients partners were still in employment.

The outreach team helps patients and carers in the earlier stages of their illness by providing support around the diagnosis and treatment of the illness. There’s also support for non-medical issues like dealing with employers, accessing benefits or arranging leisure activities such as swimming or coffee mornings. The service also runs monthly Dementia cafes and carers support groups.

“The service helps carers to continue working while the patient gets the relevant support, either through the day hospital or the outreach team. This intensive support really helps delay admission into 24 hour care or residential homes and means that patients can live for longer with their own families. 

“It’s about creating a package of care that helps the family to maintain close roles and relationships while reducing social isolation, which often occurs when the person is diagnosed. We enable the person to be cared for in an environment where others have similar needs. The day care service is activity based and much more age appropriate for our younger patients.  

“This work makes a real difference to the lives of our patients with early onset dementia as well as their friends and families,” said Emma.

The team within the unit are also keen to raise awareness of this cruel condition which many people wrongly perceive  to be an illness that only affects much older people. It’s also an issue which appears to be a growing problem facing society. 

“We’re also working hard to try and reduce the stigma of having an early onset of dementia by raising awareness. Our unit is providing information and advice to GP services, neurology clinicians and social care teams to ensure that younger people with dementia have their unique needs recognised and adequately addressed. 

“The service numbers have continually increased over the last three years with extra community outreach support groups being developed during this time,” Emma added.

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