The older we get as a population, the more dementia is likely to affect us closely, either as the person who has it or as their carer, family, or friends. Health services have not always been geared to these long term, shifting, deteriorating, and often demoralising needs in which an individual loses the core of themselves and those around them, incrementally day by day, lose the person they love. Training is a key issue but exposure to the trajectory of dementia has usually been missing, leaving just the bare bones of clinic snapshots supplemented by text book descriptions and checklist facts.
This short video describes a new project involving two major mental health trusts*, a number of local universities** and the Alzheimer’s Society***. Uniquely, it enables medical, nursing, and paramedic students to spend time with people who have dementia in their homes; getting to hear directly from them and their families or carers, and observing the change over time that both the person and those close to them are trying to manage. The experience of putting people in context and having conversations instead of relying just on those clinical checklist snapshots seems a positive way forward in enabling professionals to ‘see the person, not the diagnosis’. As one carer says, commenting on how interested their visitor students were, ‘I hope they’re going to look after us when we really need it.’
*Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust
**University of Surrey , University of Brighton, University of Sussex, Brighton and Sussex Medical School