Dementia is widely acknowledged as one of the largest issues facing health and social care in the UK today. Affecting around 800,000 elderly people in Britain, it is estimated that one in four hospital in-patients is currently suffering from the condition. In addition to this, the current NHS spend on looking after people with dementia stands at a staggering £23 billion per year. And as our population ages and people continue to live longer, it is clear that the battle against dementia is a challenge we have to face head on.
Social workers play a crucial role
NHS trusts are increasingly calling upon social work recruitment agencies to support the care of people with dementia in the community. Frequently short-staffed and under pressure, hospitals are recognising that providing more support for dementia patients at home can be crucial in keeping down the number of hospital admissions, especially for those who live alone. Many of the one in four currently in hospital are there because of trips, falls or other accidents at home. A regular visit from a social worker along with care assistants, however, can support a patient with dressing, cooking and household tasks, and check that their environment is safe, thus preventing accidents.
When people with dementia do go to A&E, they are often left there alone. The social worker plays a vital role here in supporting the patient through the wait and any treatment, and checking that they understand what is happening to them.
Helping dementia patients remain independent
Social work recruitment agencies up and down the country have a constant need to place staff in the community to enable patients with dementia to stay independent in their own homes for as long as possible. This can then significantly decrease pressure on local health services. Some of the things that a social worker might be required to organise include:
• Installing equipment to make moving around the home easier, e.g. stair-lift, hoist, cooker guard
• Help with personal hygiene and taking medicines at the appropriate times
• Organising time at local dementia support groups for the patient
• Assisting the patient with preparing food, shopping and eating
• Liaising with the family to organise a place at a care home when life at home becomes too difficult
More information about how social workers can help in the fight against dementia can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society website.