Dementia – Why the NHS Needs to Raise its Standards

I’ve written about dementia before but after watching the BBC2 Programme Keeping Britain Alive: The NHS in a Day (part 2 of 8 – broadcast April 2013) I was prompted to revisit the subject.

The story involved a husband and wife with the husband suffering from dementia and his wife caring for him. They had an appointment at the hospital which was stressful in itself as the husband was adamant that he wasn’t going.

When they arrive at the hospital, what greets them? A great big sign outside the building which states ‘Metal Health Unit’, I’m all for calling things by their correct name but surely we can come up with something a little softer that doesn’t scream and point the finger: You’ve got something wrong with you, we think you’re going mad’?

However, the real shocking part was the behaviour of the Consultant in charge of the husbands’ treatment. During the appointment where both husband and wife were present, the Consultant proceeded to ask the wife if she wanted her husband to attend a day-care service and asked how she was coping. These are important questions but they need to be asked in the absence of the sufferer. Did the Consultant actually consider what could possibly be going through the husbands mind whilst listening to those comments?

In connection with the day-care question, the consultant then said to the husband, ‘well don’t you think your wife deserves a break?’ To which he replied ‘well I play golf twice a week’ and the consultant replied ‘no you don’t, that was a long time ago’. One of the golden rules of dementia is NEVER contradict the sufferer as it causes great stress.  The golf story would have been a great tool to use for his care. For example, he thinks he’s going to play a round of golf when he’s off to the day-care unit.

I’m not knocking the NHS as I think it does an amazing job but if this is the standard of how we treat dementia patients, then action needs to be taken.



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