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Council to include dementia volunteers

The number of people with dementia is likely to increase to 7,514 by 2025, with “significant cost implications” to the health and social care system, a council committee has been told.

The November meeting of the Cheshire East Adult and Health Committee was told that there were approximately 5,192 people over the age of 65 living with dementia in Cheshire East, and this would rise by more than 2,000 in the next three years.

A report on the revised Cheshire East dementia strategy said that the impact of dementia on both an individual and their family could be “substantial and distressing”.

Cheshire East and Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group intend to “lead the way” in engaging with and providing support to people with dementia and their families and carers as early as possible, said the report, and will aim to “develop and commission services that meet assessed needs in a timely manner”.

This will be done by working in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including individuals living with dementia, their carers, and families.

A joint dementia commissioning work plan was completed in 2014 between Cheshire East Council and the two clinical commissioning groups, known then as the Joint Commissioning Partnership.

This was a three-year plan and set out the commissioning (which services would be paid for) intentions of all partners for 2014-17 for people who had dementia and their carers, within the boundaries of the three organisations.

Since 2017 there had been “a considerable amount of innovative activity by members of the community” and the council’s communities team, said the report.

Key to this community work was an increase in Dementia Friendly communities, with more people trained to be dementia friends and an increase in support groups, such as dementia cafes and the like.

There are eight communities within Cheshire East that have been awarded the status of “working to become dementia friendly” through the Alzheimer’s Society’s formal recognition process, locally Alsager, Sandbach, Congleton and Holmes Chapel but also Poynton, Bollington, Crewe, and Nantwich.

The report said that each of the dementia groups worked to make their community dementia friendly, and the work they did was “highly valued by the communities they support”.

A dementia friend is where individuals learn a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turn that understanding into action. Anyone of any age can be a dementia friend. Dementia friends information sessions are run by volunteer dementia friends champions, who are trained and supported by the Alzheimer’s Society.

An example cited of the good work that was taking place was software used in schools, trialled in Alsager and hopefully replicated in other areas.

As the old Joint Commissioning Partnership plan ended in 2017, there was a gap from Cheshire East Council’s point of view in that there had been no other strategy to replace it, to capture all of the activity that had taken place, nor to identify where the possible gaps in service delivery might be.

As a result, a decision was made in 2019 that Cheshire East needed to develop a dementia strategy.

“The aim is to make a real and positive difference to the lives of people living with dementia in Cheshire East and to ensure that people with dementia and their carers receive high quality, compassionate, and timely care whether they are at home, in hospital or in a care home,” said the report. A formal consultation will now take place, to provide a further opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the contents of the draft document.

The report said that common themes, identified as gaps or issues that would need addressing, included:

• The need for a joined-up approach across “the whole dementia journey”; • People living with dementia and their carers feeling they don’t have a voice at a strategic level with the council;
• Too much information being online;
• A lack of bereavement support and signposting;
• A need for early onset dementia and age-appropriate services / activities;
• A need for provision for early onset for those also with learning disabilities, and understanding of specific issues they may face;
• Care at home and accommodation with care providers being better trained, to further enable understanding around those living with dementia and their differing needs;
• Providing for the difficulties faced by those socially isolated, for example access to appropriate dementia friendly transport; and
• Dementia Friends awareness for such individuals as community groups, voluntary sector, health and social care workers.

The report said that all Cheshire East staff members needed to be dementia friends.
Between 17th July and 14th August last year, Cheshire East carried out a survey to support its new strategy.

The aim was to ascertain how those living with dementia, their carers and families felt. During August 2021, members of the Dementia Steering Group held face-to-face groups with members of the public who were living with dementia and their carers. The feedback from these sessions have also been used to inform the draft strategy.

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