JDC Asks  

“What is your greatest wish for dementia care in the coming year?” 

Patrick Atkinson

Patrick Atkinson, director of Church Farm Care: 

My greatest wish is not just for dementia care, but for the whole sector. I want to see the industry start to integrate care and think about what it should look like in the future.  

We have a massive opportunity to change and shape a better future, so it’s imperative we don’t waste this chance through complacency, incorrect use of funding, not promoting best practice or losing professionals due to them not feeling valued or listened to. 

This would all start by working closer with our colleagues in health care. By sharing goals and responsibilities, we would be able to plan more effectively and achieve better outcomes.  

We need to develop values where we champion good practice. Over the past ten years, we’ve achieved some amazing things and made strides forward, but there’s still more we can do to continue this trajectory. This will only be achieved by working together towards a common goal: Attracting the best people to the sector. 

Ensuring we move quickly towards a more integrated, proactive care sector will be crucial over the next year, and we need to make sure we’re not afraid of developing new ideas for the fear of blame if things go wrong – mistakes are just as important as success in development. 

At the heart of everything, we’re a person-centred industry and we need to support and learn from each other, other sectors and even other countries, to be the best we can and deliver the best practice to those who need it.  

Tessa Gutteridge

Tessa Gutteridge, chair of the Young Dementia Network and programme director for young onset dementia at Dementia UK: 

Excruciatingly difficult to polish that genie lamp and reveal my greatest wish for dementia care in 2022. Hard because as a realist I know much needs to change in a myriad of areas and as an optimist I believe that positive change can and will happen.  

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, let me focus on one type of experience of this disabling, progressive condition. Let us spotlight the person living with young onset dementia and their family – just newly diagnosed through the turbulence of the past Covid restrictions.   

Simply put, to manage this unexpected and profound change that will affect every aspect of their life over time, they need everything that surrounds them to enable and support them.  With this enablement there can be a greater sense of personal control amidst incurable symptoms, and more opportunity of worthwhile lives. 

Our family need to know, without struggle, how and where to draw on information and advice that is tailored to their stage of life from the point of diagnosis onwards to beyond bereavement. They need to draw on the expertise of professionals who know them, their children and what is important to them.  

Professionals and peers alongside them to help plan, suggest solutions, prevent personal crises, and support with compassion and humanity are vital. This cohesive, continuous offering, with the choice to access on demand, wherever they live and irrespective of their means, is my greatest wish and is a must if this family is not to be shattered by the current inequity in dementia care.  

Keith Oliver

Keith Oliver, Alzheimer’s Society ambassador and KMPT NHS dementia envoy 

Rather than seeking out the elusive dementia genie to make my wish for 2022, I’ll turn to Janus, the Roman god who gave the name to January, and who I often think of at this time. Janus looked back at the old year, and forward to the new, so to answer this question I will do the same.  While my nature is to be positive and to seek constructive ways forward, the current situation, based on looking back over 2021, challenges this by focusing my thoughts regarding dementia on lack of government commitment, the impact of Covid, diminishing resources and lowering of morale. 

However, there are reasons to see glimmers of hope. The United against Dementia initiative should strengthen during 2022 and have a greater impact. The Alzheimer’s Society restarting its research programme for new projects in the new year is immensely important, and I hope the government responds by fulfilling its pledge to increase investment in dementia research. And I hope it ensures this is broader than seeking new drugs or reliance on AI.  

I see DEEP continuing to do fantastic work in placing those with a diagnosis at the centre of some amazing work and then showcasing this for the world to admire. I see young onset dementia benefiting from the national network, and from the platform that Dementia UK now provides – so much needs to be done in this area and the foundations are now laid to best enable this. 

I’m looking forward to a positive year ahead. Time will tell. 

Liz Jones

Liz Jones, policy director at the National Care Forum  

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on people living with dementia and their families and friends. There is compelling research, published in Nature Reviews Neurology, which highlights that the pandemic has “posed unique risks to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia…. these people have a relatively high risk of contracting severe Covid-19, and are also at risk of neuropsychiatric disturbances as a result of lockdown measures and social isolation.”  

What is our wish for 2022? We have three! 

A renewed focus on early diagnosis: the huge sums of money going in to tackle the NHS backlog must deliver a renewed vigour and focus on this. While the government scrabbles to eliminate the elective surgery backlog, we cannot see this happen at the expense of those people who are waiting to have their needs connected with dementia assessed, identified and supported.  

Valuing day and community services: local authorities and integrated care systems (ICS) must not forget about the value of day and community services, both for people living with dementia and their families and carers, and make sure that they are fully up and running again. These services really are essential in local communities.  

The chance to live well with dementia: a return to the focus on the whole person and their immediate network to live well.   

Bernadette Mossman

Bernadette Mossman, healthcare director at Vida Healthcare: 

My greatest wish for dementia care in the coming year is to see a move back to pre-pandemic normality. I hope that the sector and staff members will start to feel more positive, and families will once again be an integral part of everyday life for anyone living with dementia in residential or nursing care. 

Renewed confidence is crucial if the sector, and dementia care, is to go from strength to strength in the coming year. We’ve seen that public confidence in care homes has almost doubled since 2020, but we still have a lot of work to do if we’re to increase interest in working in the sector and moving into care. 

We’re doing everything we can to achieve these aims, from providing training and career development opportunities with our training platform, Vida Academy, to offering staff a significant hourly rate increase. We’ve also partnered with University College London to carry out cutting edge research into dementia, and we hope that we’ll be able to use the results to innovate and drive the future of dementia care forward. 

We recently carried out some research investigating what the public really think about care homes, and we seem to be winning over hearts and minds, particularly thanks to the increased press coverage of the sector during the pandemic.
Despite the past couple of years being extremely challenging for the sector and dementia care, I’m looking forward to 2022 and hope that we’ll begin returning to pre-pandemic normality, where public trust and recruitment are building back up.