People who look after someone living with dementia are urged to talk to their GP practice during a worldwide awareness month
13th September 2017 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in
The NHS in Leicester and the local Carers Centre are together urging patients who look after someone with dementia to tell their GP practice so they can also get the support they need for themselves.
The appeal coincides with World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness and challenge the myths surrounding dementia. The local focus is on supporting people who are caring for a relative or someone else living with dementia.
Registering as a carer means that the patient’s caring responsibilities will be known to their GP practice – which in turn means that their own health needs can be better looked after and they can receive the right support and advice. This can include flexible appointment times and support with other long term health conditions, so they can remain well to care for their loved one.
Carers are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, 25 per cent more likely to be a smoker and 37 per cent of carers currently registered in Leicester have one or more long term health condition themselves, including diabetes or a heart or lung problem.
Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in partnership with The Carers Centre has been providing support to practices for the last 12 months to get more people on the carers register.
In 2016/17 all CCGs in England were given a target to successfully register 70 percent of their population diagnosed with dementia on the dementia register. Locally in Leicester we achieved 91.2 per cent, one of the highest in the country.
Dementia is a priority for the CCG under our local Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), known as Better Care Together.
Pam Thompson from Beaumont Leys has cared for her mother, Hazel Brown, 83, for over 10 years, she said: “Mum stopped doing crosswords, became very anxious and displayed very aggressive behaviour over a period of time. She was diagnosed with mixed dementia which means she has both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
“Although there was lots of practical help such as mobility aids and home improvements, there was no one there to help with her mood swings and being an only child, I had no other family support when times became really hard. I am so grateful for the support of The Carers Centre who gave me the advice I needed to take over my mum’s finances and sorted out a carer’s allowance for me as well as supported me while I moved her out of her family home and into a specialist dementia care home.
“Working at The Carer’s Centre myself, the majority of people we speak to are people who are caring for family members living with dementia.”
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include gradual memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and stroke.
Debbie Hellmouth, also from Leicester started caring for her mother, Patricia Hellmouth, 77, last year, she said: “The changes in my mum happened very suddenly, almost overnight she became extremely confused and over a fortnight couldn’t carry out daily tasks such as counting money and taking regular medication.
“I took her to the GP in November last year and she had a memory test. Immediately the GP put her on a tablet to manage the symptoms of her dementia and within eight weeks she was back to her usual self. We were told though that taking a tablet doesn’t work for everyone or for people with advanced dementia and eventually and gradually her symptoms would worsen. It was such a scary time. I was faced with looking after all of her needs as well another household and had to move in with her because I was so worried and didn’t know what else to do. The GP was supportive and my practice is now aware that I care for my mum so I know if I need an appointment with them, they will do their best to fit it around my caring responsibilities.”
Dr Sulaxni Nainani, GP lead for dementia at Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “A lot of people don’t actually realise they are carers, especially if they are used to looking after a family member or friend and it is part of their daily routine. Caring for someone who is living with dementia can be particularly stressful and emotional as they can be facing a different situation each day. This is why it is important to speak to your GP and get registered on the carer’s register. Your GP can then better support you and your caring needs.”
Kirsteen McVeigh, GP Partnership Service Worker from The Carers Centre, said: “The majority of phone calls we receive are from people who are supporting someone who has a type of dementia and are asking us for some extra support to cope with day-to-day life. We do a lot of work with GP practices in Leicester to get more people on the carers register and carers of people living with dementia are part of this work.”