Earlier dementia diagnosis as 90 per cent of elderly patients screened

Hundreds more people in West Sussex can receive early treatment for dementia thanks to hospital staff being more alert to the warning signs.

Ninety per cent of all elderly patients admitted to Worthing Hospital and St Richards Hospital in Chichester as an emergency are now screened for dementia.

This has risen from just 10 per cent last year and since April, more than 3,000 tests have been done.

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As a result, hospital staff have contacted the GPs of more than 300 people to alert them to the need for further checks and specialist assessment.

Early diagnosis of dementia is essential – not only are treatments more effective in the early stages of the disease, but it also gives families time to plan and prepare for the future.

About one in four of all hospital inpatients are now believed to have a form of dementia.

Matron Katrina O’Shea said: “Detecting a dementia early can make a real difference to someone’s quality of life, and the lives of those caring for them.

“That is why we have made such an effort to drive up the number of assessments we do, and the figures show just how successful those efforts have been.”

The assessment involves checking if the patient has become more forgetful than in the past, and if so, they are asked a series of 10 standard questions to assess their mental health.

These tests may be repeated to help staff judge if a patient’s condition is changing, or if any forgetfulness is related to a physical illness.

The quality of care available to hospital inpatients who have dementia has been transformed in recent years.

Projects led by specialist dementia staff include the ‘Knowing Me’ initiative, which records patients’ likes, dislikes and history to help staff get to know their patients better.

Knowing Me volunteers support ward staff caring for people who have dementia.

‘Activity boxes’ and ‘reminiscence pods’ are also available to help patients engage in pastimes and provide a comforting environment from the past.

Anyone interested in becoming a Knowing Me volunteer should contact Linda Taylor at Worthing Hospital on 01903 205111 or Claire Goldsmith at St Richard’s Hospital on 01243 788122.