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In this Dementia Action Week, what holistic therapies should we be considering in the management of dementia?

This week, 17-23 May sees Dementia Action Week in the UK, with the Alzheimer’s Society calling on the Government to #CureTheCareSystem now to improve the lives of people living with dementia.

Increasingly in the last week or so, I am acutely aware that the spotlight has once again been firmly fixed on just how broken our social care system is in the UK. Nearly 1 million people with dementia and their families are struggling to get the support and care they not only need but deserve.

In August 2019 on the steps of Downing Street, newly elected PM, Boris Johnson, could not have been clearer in his first speech pledging to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. Fast forward to Her Majesty’s state opening of Parliament on 11 May 2021 and sadly the much-needed reform is no further forward.

As part of the Queen’s speech, the Government said, “it is committed to improving the adult social care system and would bring forward proposals in 2021”.  Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the adult social care system has never before been under so much pressure, with the media bringing these “forgotten patients” sharply into focus.

With no immediate timetable for action, I felt this Dementia Action Week is a timely opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of the broader considerations not only for those living with dementia, but their families and carers too.  There is increasing recognition of the benefits of holistic therapies to support cognitive, functional and behavioural symptoms of dementia. Depression, anxiety, and agitation is often coupled with the physiological symptoms of this progressive and life-limiting illness, causing further agitation especially if co-morbidity physical disorders exist.

Over the last 13 years working within care home and hospice settings, time and time again the common theme is how our OSKA pressure care beds, mattresses and seating support residents and patients with dementia. For those characterised by pain, they often have difficulty in communicating their discomfort and care needs, adding to their frustrations. Depression and anxiety are commonplace often magnifying agitation, sensory deficits and distress.

I am reminded of one care home resident whose bed had an air mattress. The alternating air pressure caused him such overwhelming anxiety and a feeling of “sea-sickness” he refused to go to bed every night, persistently resisting his carers and sitting on the side of the bed throughout the night, not only causing an increased risk of falling off his bed, but concern for his overall health and wellbeing. This persistent and recurrent behaviour resulted in a category 3 pressure ulcer on his ischial tuberosities (ITs), not only causing greater more complex clinical needs, but further anxiety and increased distress. It was a downward spiral.

I was called in to this care home to assess the situation, resulting in delivery of an OSKA mattress. For those with deep tissue injury, or category 3 or 4 pressure ulcers, the OSKA Series5 lateral tilt mattress gives an alternating air and foam combination which provides exceptional comfort and support. With outstanding pressure relief and pain management, this takes holistic care to the next level in any care establishment. Almost immediately, the sense of relief this gentleman felt was palpable. Gone were the nightly battles with healthcare support workers and nurses. He stayed in bed all night, was not shouting out for help, and overall, we saw a rapid improvement of his mental health and general wellbeing, aiding a speedier healing of his pressure ulcers.

On another occasion, we received a call from a care home who repeatedly found themselves literally running between residents’ rooms night after night. Here the common issue was alternating air mattresses causing distress and discomfort amongst many. The Nurse Call Bell system was being repeatedly rung, residents were shouting and generally distressed, each exacerbating other residents’ anxiety and increasing the jarring noise levels for all concerned. The knock-on effect of these heightened stress levels amongst the residents, also impacted heavily on the night staff who were not only run-ragged but exhausted from the physical effects of trying to settle and calm agitated residents every night.

Again, we installed OSKA mattresses with staff reporting an almost immediate improvement in the nightly protocols of caring for residents. In time, the decline in the wider negative impact of dementia on not only the physical but the psychological health and wellbeing of residents and their care team, was incredible.

Sadly, there is still so much clinical research and work to be done into the treatment and care for those suffering with this progressive illness. But conversely, our expert knowledge and cutting-edge research and development programme here at OSKA Care is gaining huge traction within the care home and hospice sectors as a proven holistic therapy to treat the condition and symptom management associated with dementia, such as the bed/sleep problems and agitations I have described.

There’s no escaping the fact that care needs are becoming more complex at a time when funding is becoming squeezed. We know that every patient is different, and their needs have to be met quickly and within limited budgets, so we use our 3Cs Principles of ‘clinical’, ‘comfort’ and ‘cost’ to help our care home and hospice settings deliver the highest standards of care.

It really is a privilege to work alongside our in-house Tissue Viability Nurses, CQC Specialist advisors and industry experts with considerable experience in this field every day to ensure every individual not only deserves but receives the very best care. We are changing lives every day. We are OSKA – the Pressure Care Experts.