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Visit to the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University

Jo Downie and Fiona Shand from the Balfour+Manson Client Welfare Team, attended an information day at the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at Stirling University. Professor June Andrews (Director) andShirley Law (Director of Practice Development) were the main facilitators and spoke about where we are now in dementia care, and the importance of early diagnosis. The event also provided an opportunity to find out about the services on offer at the DSDC and to view their Design and Technology Suite.
Professor Andrews stated that there is no greater health and social care challenge than dementia. She shared some alarming statistics:

There are over 82,000 people in Scotland with Dementia
18,000 of those are under 65 years
It is also estimated that there are 30 million people with dementia worldwide and this number is steadily rising

However the information found to be most surprising, was that the cost of caring for people with dementia is greater than heart disease, stroke and cancer put together. 
Professor Andrews believes that it costs more to provide dementia care badly, than it does to provide it well. She is convinced that by changing approach to working in a more person centered way, rather than from a purely medical model, is the way forward. She believes not only would a better service be provided, but this would be well within current budgets.
The DSDC have been developing evidence based, good practice for those working in the field of dementia for over 25 years, and is now an internationally recognised centre of excellence. Their common sense, straightforward approach identified the time constraints often affecting the people working in this field. To address this problem they have developed a number of low cost, easily accessible courses ranging from domiciliary and care home courses, to post graduate qualifications. The DSDC believe that to improve the status of care workers, better training is needed across the whole spectrum of staff. Staff deserve to be valued and respected for the work they do.
Research has shown that early diagnosis of dementia is crucial. People can then receive information, support and treatment at the earliest stage of the disease. Also supporting people to continue to live independently at home for as long as possible has been proved, as the best way to proceed and deliver a better quality of life. 
As well as the excellent library, conference and resource facilities at DSDC they have a Design Technology Suite. Jo and Fiona were able to check out the latest non intrusive telecare solutions and aids for daily living. Some of the ideas seemed really obvious, but sadly are often overlooked. Examples being to increase light levels, switching off TVs and radios, if they are not being listened to, to avoid meaningless and confusing noise, steering clear of patterns on carpets and wallpapers which can cause bewilderment or anxiety. Jo and Fiona found the Design Technology Suite well worth a visit. If a visit is not possible it may be worth investing in the booklet “Helpful Hints for Dementia Design at Home”, which is full of good ideas.
The DSDC is at the forefront of improving dementia care. Not only was the information day interesting and informative, it provided an opportunity to meet others working in the field of dementia. Being able to discuss and compare practice was most helpful. Jo and Fiona came away feeling very optimistic. The good news being, the results best practice can achieve. It is also vital to remember that the person with dementia is a unique individual and has many skills which should not be overlooked. Dementia is not just about problems and difficulties.
If you would like more information or help on caring for the elderly please contact Jo Downie or Fiona Shand.