Care for the elderly has become a real concern. On Tuesday March 6 charities, care homes and housing providers called on the government to reform social care. They wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley how: “Years of underfunding, combined with rising demand have resulted in a social care system that is in crisis: an unfair and confusing postcode lottery which is now facing additional cuts.”
They added: “It is a shocking fact that at a time when more people need care, the numbers getting support from social care services are decreasing. Those who do get support are often shocked by the cost and the quality.”
The letter was signed by the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jane Ashcroft.
The Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow, said: "We know that urgent reform of the care and support system is needed. We will be responding this spring, with full proposals for reform of adult social care in a white paper and progress report on funding reform.
In 2010, the Alzheimer’s Society in Cardiff’s Oldwell Court was given extra funding by Cardiff and the Vale University Health Board to continue its young onset dementia project after being threatened with closure. The onset project is crucial as it is difficult for younger people living with dementia to access support and they often find themselves lost between services. Funding and donations are imperative to the Society to continue its work.
The demand for dementia care is increasing as the elderly population increases. Currently there are 37,000 people in Wales with dementia The UK figure is set to rise to one million by 2025.
Wales was criticised in an independent report in 2009 as the worst dementia care providers in the UK. The report stressed a lack of care settings for dementia patients. The Welsh Assembly Government announced an extra £1.5 million a year to extend and develop dementia care services in July 2010. This funding now supports health and social services deliver the dementia action plan, The National Dementia Vision for Wales which was launched in February 2011.
Cardiff and the Vale Alzheimer’s Society offer a wide range of services for those with or caring for someone with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society day care centre in Oldwell Court, Penylan provides a valuable service. Their mission is “to provide a day care service for people with dementia which enhances their quality of life, reduces isolation, respects individual values and offers respite and support to carers.”
The day centre is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and there are 22 places are provided. Some of the staff are drivers and transport those with dementia to the center in the two specially converted minibuses. Drivers are also trained in dementia care and work within the day care service. The centre has full time and part time day support workers and they rely heavily on volunteers.
The day centre offers a safe and homely environment. It has a dining area, armchairs, sofas, a tuck shop and saloon bar which holds old fashioned items to reminisce, a fireplace, a TV and even a toy cat. There is a wall of artwork made by those who go there. Currently it is a spring time board with trees adorned with leaves, flowers and birds.
The large plasma television was donated and films, particularly musicals, are shown on a Friday afternoon, where people enjoy singing along. The society has also started Tuesday night film shows for carers which will start tonight at 6:30pm. There is a garden area for people to help to tend. The garden was transformed by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin two years ago and a new volunteer gardener has been at the centre for four weeks to help with maintenance and to plant new plants. A new carpet and flooring was put in over the weekend and has been the subject of much excitement.
There is a kitchen area on site but it is only used to make tea and toast. The YMCA on City Road provides lunches to suit nutritional needs. Those who attend the centre are charged for transport and lunch.
The centre offers a person centred approach to care because everyone who has dementia is unique. No two people are likely to experience Alzheimer’s in exactly the same way. Each person is cared for and Melissa Williams who is studying occupational therapy and carrying out work experience at the centre said an important part of the care is getting to know individuals. She acknowledges: “It takes time to understand what people enjoy but it is important we discover and attend to their choices.”
The centre offers a wide range of activities. People play games they would remember from years ago and even though they have different capabilities, carers try to stimulate everyone. They are kind and reassuring without being condescending. Even if they cannot understand what someone is trying to say they look for the meaning in their words and offer encouragement.
We all need to feel valued and respected and an important part of caring for someone with dementia is making them feel they have important part to play in life. It is imperative they retain their independence as long as possible and the day centre facilitates this by giving them choice, letting them complete tasks such as setting up tables and eating with other people. This stimulates them.
Day service Manager, Linda Moule says we strive to “empower people and promote independence.
“We offer crucial respite care but it is an opportunity for those with dementia to meet friends and it’s an opportunity for them to interact. The environment is far different from being at home with a carer.”
Chris Roberts, who worked as a steel welder and fabricator for 45 years before being forced to change careers as a result of a shoulder injury, volunteered at the centre before Christmas. A permanent job came up and he got it. He loves working there he said: “The people are fantastic, there are some real characters and the staff are brilliant.”
He said it’s nice to look through books with people and look at history, a lot of people are very knowledgeable and have interesting memories of the past. Most people with dementia retain memories of the past whilst short term events become lost.
He added: “One or two have taken to me and I have taken to them. I feel really rewarded by what I do. It feels like I’m doing something really worthwhile.”