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Acute hospitals must prioritise staff training in caring for dementia patients

28th January 2014 - Colm Burke TD

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and the Party’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, today (Tuesday) expressed concern at the worrying gap in services for dementia patients in Irish hospitals. Senator Burke was speaking following the publication of the first national audit of dementia care services in acute hospitals carried out by researchers at UCC.

“Some of the results of this report raise concerns at the general lack of awareness in caring for people with dementia in our hospitals. Frankly, it is frightening that only 6% of hospitals include dementia awareness on staff induction programmes.

“This is despite the growing numbers of patients being diagnosed with dementia. A 2012 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on dementia estimated that 36 million people worldwide now live with the condition and each year there are 7.7 million new cases.

“There are currently no dementia specific standards in place for the care of those patients in hospitals even though 18% of acute hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia at any one time.

“It is imperative, as the UCC report recommends, that each hospital immediately begin to develop and implement policies and systems directly targeting the prevention, identification and treatment of delirium. Basic training in dementia awareness should be given to all hospital staff, and higher levels of training to a lesser proportion of ward staff.

“Huge emotional, psychological and financial stress is often placed on family members caring for loved ones with dementia and if strategies can be developed to assist these families in easing that stress, I believe that should be given priority.

“For some time now, I have been calling on Ireland to take a lead in the medical treatment of dementia and research into its causes. I believe this report is an excellent example of the talented researchers who are already working on the issue in Ireland. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a national strategy on Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. I would hope that the recommendations contained in the UCC report will be taken into serious consideration in the development of that strategy.”

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