Team to spot the early signs of dementia

New specialist health teams are being set up to help spot the early signs of dementia in older patients admitted to hospitals.

SUFFOLK: New specialist health teams are being set up to help spot the early signs of dementia in older patients admitted to hospitals.

Staff from Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (SMHP) will work alongside existing teams at Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital to support families and patients in quickly identifying mental health problems.

A recent report by the Alzheimer's Society, Counting the Cost, revealed that nationally people with dementia often spend longer in hospital than those without the condition receiving the same treatment, while nursing staff are not always able to provide the required specialist dementia care.

Specialist mental health nurse Chris Lyon, who is heading up the Ipswich complex care team, said: “It's about meeting the needs of patients who have a dementia and delirium.

“A person coming into hospital often does so in a state of crisis, and their mental health needs may not picked up until later in the process.

“When a patient who has a dementia is admitted to hospital the emphasis is on their physical needs. A more holistic approach to care will take into account the psychological and emotional needs of the patient and their carers and relatives.

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“We will have the time to sit down with patients and their families to discuss any diagnosis of dementia or delirium, and also signpost them to agencies that can help.”

In general, around 60 per cent of general hospital inpatients are older people and, of those, 40pc may have an underlying mental health issue.

The teams are being set up after the three trusts - the SMHP and the two hospitals - put in a successful bid for Challenge Fund resources from NHS Suffolk and NHS East of England. The funding will run until March 2011.

NHS Suffolk spokesperson Sharon Stott, head of commissioning and development (specialised services), said: “Helping to support people with dementia is absolutely crucial for peoples' dignity and quality of life as dementia is affecting many more people in the county.”

Do you know someone who suffers from dementia and want to raise any issues? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk