Live coverage: The Dementia Challenge

Published on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 07:55
Written by Daniel Mason

Welcome to our live coverage of The Dementia Challenge, Govtoday's latest conference in its health and social care reform series. For the the latest updates please refresh the page.

16.05 That's it for today - thanks to everyone who came and contributed to the debate.

15.40 Finally for today we have a Q&A with Dr Trevor Jarvis on his life with dementia.

15.30 Brooker uses the concept of a river journey to describe care for a person with dementia - diagnosis is like a waterfall that you have to get through, then the aim is to reach calm waters but there will rocks and other obstacles along the way. There are people on bridges and river banks on who can spot the rocks, though - healthcare workers, family, friends and so on.

15.15 Professor Dawn Brooker now talking about supporting people to live well with dementia. She starts by recommending Dementia Reconsidered: the person comes first (1997) by Tom Kitwood as essential reading. On the concept of person-centred care she explains her VIPs acronym - Valuing people, Individual needs recognised, seeing from the Perspective of the service user, Supportive social psychology.

14.50 Chandaria emphasises the importance of continuing the momentum after 2015 when the prime minister's current 'dementia challenge' comes to an end.

14.35 What is a dementia friendly community, other than a warm and fuzzy idea, asks Chandaria. The key is to speak with people who have dementia and find out what they want and need. Serious issues around isolation, loneliness, basic needs, support. Key to solution is empowering people with dementia and recognising their contribution to society, enabling them to participate. Also, challenging stigma, building awareness - alongside practical steps such as transport availability.

14.28 Next: Karishma Chandaria, the Alzheimer's Society's dementia friendly communities programme manager, on building dementia friendly communities.

14.20 Masterson makes a very simple but powerful point, showing a series of images showing how design features in care environments can significantly help people, using colours, clear signs, reducing clutter etc. Key areas include reception desks, lighting, signage, avoiding dead ends, eating and drinking areas, large faced clocks and calendars, distinctive coloured doors for toilets and so on.

14.08 We're getting restarted after lunch with a focus on 'living well' with dementia. First we'll hear from Abi Masterson, a consultant to the King's Fund, on designing dementia environments. More information on the King's Fund enhancing the healing environment projects can be found here and here.

12.45 In the question and answer session, one audience member raises two concerns: can we promise everyone patient-centred care when funding is tight and resources are scarce? And will integration just mean one person ending up doing the jobs of lots of people?

12.25 All of the slides used by our speakers today will be available on the event website within the next few days. Check back to this page to find them.

12.10 Next we have two case studies showing best practice in care for people with dementia.

11.53 Jane Silvester from NICE is now speaking. She gives the background to NICE's dementia care quality standards. The pathway devised by NICE can be viewed here.

11.45 Integrated personalised planning; an expert guide; high quality information at the right time; and services to support quality of life - these are the four pillars of post-diagnostic support, says Pickup. Each part of the system needs to know about the others so they can refer to them, she adds.

11.30 Our next session starts with a talk by Sarah Pickup, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. She starts with some of the key statistics, including that 80% of people in care homes have dementia, and 25% of hospital beds - some 34,000 - are occupied by someone with dementia, usually being treated for something else. Meanwhile two thirds of people with dementia live in their own homes. What we need is integration so that we are all more accepting of people with dementia in society generally, Pickup says. 

10.50 Thanks to everyone who is getting involved in the debate using #dementia14 on Twitter.

10.45 We've got one of the worst paid, least valued people doing one of society's most important jobs, Blears says, responding to a question about pay and training for care workers. Government has got to get a grip on this. People in the care home her mother stayed in at one point were unsupported and the management was appalling at the time, she says. 

10.30 We've moved onto the first question and answer session of the day. A questioner asks how the government's dementia challenge can be sustained beyond this parliament. Blears gives reassurance that if there is a change in government, Labour is also committed to the issue. She adds that dementia has a greater profile, more debates among MPs - it is touching every family in the land and politicians are not immune to it. The issue will be around the resources, getting money into the system, she says.

10.25 Warner continues by emphasising the need for respect and dignity for those with dementia in the care environment. The person is still there right until the end, he says.

10.18 There is such a focus on diagnosis that it is becoming a conveyor belt - people coming in, being diagnosed then sent home, according to Warner. Where is the humanity, he asks. Getting more people diagnosed shouldn't be at the expense of care for the individual, says Warner.

10.15 Dr James Warner, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is next to speak. He begins by talking about his father, who had Alzheimer's. He challenges the widely cited figures on how many people are diagnosed with dementia, saying a higher percentage are diagnosed than is suggested. He also questions the idea of a timely diagnosis - who is it timely for: the patient, the doctor, the carer?

10.08 Meanwhile Karran is highlighting the problem that future pharma research is not likely to be in dementia because the growth areas in terms of drugs sales are in other areas. Pharma used to be the people who took up the scientific research and turned it into patient benefits but now there is a gap emerging, he warns.

10.05 Hazel Blears' non-partisan and personal speech earlier was well received in the room.

9.55 The next speaker is Dr Eric Karran from Alzheimer's Research UK. He agrees with Blears about the importance of David Cameron's decision to make dementia a key priority for the government and the G8. However there is currently a long distance between research and patient benefits, so accelerating this process will help to address this issue, Karran says. 

9.50 In the care research field, collaboration of different people with different backgrounds will be how we develop an evidence base around care and living well with dementia, says Blears. The integration of health social care with pooled budget is the only way to maintain standards and avoid duplication, she adds. Unless we bite the bullet and have integrated care in a proper way we will not be able to meet the challenges ahead with reduced funding, according to Blears. It's an exciting time but the elephant in the room is the care workers on minimum wage, not paid for travelling between appointments, not enough training. She says she is ashamed and embarrassed that the workforce is so undervalued. This situation cannot go much longer if we want to respect people with dementia, she says.

9.40 As well as the search for a cure there should be just as much focus on helping people live well with dementia, says Blears, because that cure is still a long way off. She also calls for more of the research budget to be spent on prevention.

9.37 But the issue is not just one for politicians, it is for everyone in the community, says Blears, going on to talk about her mother, who has dementia. "Some of our experience has been brilliant, some of our experience has been appalling", she says, explaining why she is "passionately committed" to the issue.

9.35 Labour MP Hazel Blears starts by giving credit to the prime minister, David Cameron, for putting his name to the government's dementia agenda, which she says will be very helpful in making sure the policy delivers. The G8 dementia summit Cameron organised was a "really big symbol" of the importance of the issue, she adds. The building blocks are in place, we've got a strategy, different parts of the system are lined up and there is international collaboration - not many policies have all those things, adds Blears.

9.25 Our chair, Kate Moore, is doing the introductions, then our keynote speaker Hazel Blears will get the conference going proper. 

8.00 Good morning - today we're at the Mermaid conference centre in central London for The Dementia Challenge. We've got some great speakers lined up to debate this hugely important and current issue including Hazel Blears MP, who chairs the all party parliamentary group on dementia, as well as representatives from Alzheimer's Research UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, NICE and more. See the full programme here.

Whether you're at the conference or not, you can contribute on Twitter using the hashtag #Dementia14 or by putting questions to our panellists at It should be an interesting day and I'll be updating this page throughout. We get started at 9.20.

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