East Midlands Dementia Day 2016

Liz Charalambous is a qualified nurse on a female, acute medical HCOP (Health Care for Older People) ward at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital Trust. She attended the East Midlands Dementia Day on 6 December 2016. She tweets at @lizcharalambou and is a regular guest blogger for the BGS. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely Liz’s own and do not express the views or opinions of her employer or any other organisation. 

major-oak-sherwood-forestThe East Midlands Dementia Day on 6 December 2016 at Nottingham City Hospital proved to be an inspiring and informative event. Organised by dementia specialists, Professor Rowan Harwood and Dr. Karen Harrison-Dening, the day welcomed expert speakers from Nottingham and further afield.

The day began with Professor Rowan Harwood  who presented an overview of dementia and its increasing importance from a public health and societal perspective. Painting the picture of the reality of dementia with stark statistics of multiple comorbidities; dementia in care homes and in hospital; and the reality of carer and family support for people with the disease, stressed the urgent need for further research.

Head of the Centre for Dementia in the Institute of Mental Health at Nottingham, Professor Tom Dening followed with a presentation of technology in dementia care. Discussing the effects of the digital revolution, he stressed the need for one-to-one assistance with technology to maximise the advantages, and discussed how the potential benefits, such as in Playlist for Life can so often outweigh the disadvantages.

Dr. Simon Thacker Consultant of Mental Health Liaison Team at Royal Derby Hospital discussed delirium and the difficulties in distinguishing it from dementia. He reminded us of the added complication with some patients having both, and hypodelirium often remaining firmly under the radar in busy hospital environments. Affected patients can be seen as sleepy or ‘no trouble’ to staff. He introduced the useful acronym ‘PINCHME’ which stands for ‘pain; infection/intracerebral; constipation; hydration; medication; and environment’ as a clever aide memoire for busy staff to spot this deadly medical emergency.

Coffee time gave us a chance to view the posters and then on to the workshops which comprised of Phd student and Speech Therapist Becca O’Brien discussing her research into conversation and communication . Other workshops included ‘running a liaison service’, ‘prescribing and de-prescribing’, as well as my own workshop on ‘making the most of volunteers’. The workshop was designed around my PhD research which is firmly rooted in my clinical experience of working alongside hospital volunteers.  I invited our volunteers Dorothy Lang and Shakti Sarin, to participate in the workshop. Their extensive experience and fluent presentation of the barriers and facilitators to volunteering in dementia and acute hospitals made me proud, and gave attendees ideas for implementing a similar service in their own area of work.

Following lunch we heard from Professor Jan Oyebode from University of Bradford who discussed diversity in dementia care. I was interested in the range of diversity in the UK and how important it is to design and develop meaningful services to communities in order to make a difference to health and wellbeing. The presentation gave important insight into factors influencing quality health services to diverse communities, such as religious influences; language and literacy; attitudes and assumptions; the unsuitability of services and inadequate assessments. I was particularly interested in the cultural competence of assessment tools which can be inadequate, meaningless, and inappropriate, and so often miss the mark when assessing people from different cultures.

Jan Leeks, nurse consultant and senior lecturer from University of Hertfordshire followed with her presentation of how wellbeing can be enhanced through positive communication. She used fun yet simple techniques to remind us of the importance of good quality communication in dementia care.

Award winning cartoonist, Tony Husband shared his uplifting, articulate and poignant story of how dementia affected his father, and exemplified the reality for families. His narration of ‘Take Care, Son: The Story of My Dad and his Dementia’ and clever artwork held the audience spellbound.

Professor Julian Hughes took to the podium with a presentation of the importance of mental capacity and best interests. It reinforced my belief that acting in a person’s best interests is an ongoing worry for any health professional, and peppered with potential pitfalls. Professor Steve Iliffe of University College London explored heuristics as a way of helping decision making for healthcare staff delivering end of life care, and ended the day by prompting a thought provoking discussion.

The day closed with the promise of another similar day for 2017. This fills me with inspiration that the future of research into dementia remains hopeful. More information about the conference can be found on twitter at #emdnotts16

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