Dr Tomasina Oh
Associate Professor, Dementia Care Programme Lead (Research),
University of Plymouth
Professor Richard Byng
Professor in Primary Care Research/PenARC Deputy Director, University of Plymouth
Contribution from Hannah Wheat
A model of personalised support could improve life for people with dementia and their carers by empowering them to make the best choices for their own care needs.
In this country, there is a concerning gap in dementia support, notes Dr Tomasina Oh, Associate Professor, Dementia Care Programme Lead at the University of Plymouth. “Some people living with dementia are falling between the cracks,” she says.
“They have received a diagnosis but are not yet in need of a care home or input from specialists. Worryingly, these individuals and their carers — who are usually spouses or family members — are often left without suitable support to face a range of daunting challenges.”
Personalised support for dementia patients and carers
Challenges can include social isolation, despair and frailty due to combined physical and cognitive decline. However, a five-year collaborative research project including the Universities of Plymouth and Manchester — established in 2018 and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research — aims to remedy this neglect by evaluating a system for dementia support they have developed.
Dementia PersonAlised Care Team (D-PACT) proposes improving the lives of people living with dementia — and their carers — with personalised emotional and practical support from an appropriately trained Dementia Support Worker. The support worker, supervised by specialists, spends time understanding the individual’s particular situation and then empowers them and their carers to make the best choices for their own needs. Crucially, they are not there to tell them what to do.
It’s a model that helps the individual andProfessor Richard Byng
their carers function and stay together.
Trusted point of contact offering proactive support
“The Support Worker becomes a trusted point of contact who can spot potential problems before they escalate into crises,” says Professor Richard Byng, Professor in Primary Care Research at the University of Plymouth. “It’s a model that helps the individual and their carers function and stay together.”
The study, which was conducted in a range of settings, shows potential value and has been well-received by those who took part. “People have described a step change in their support,” says Professor Byng. “They say they feel listened to and treated as a person, getting reassurance and relief — particularly carers — that they are doing things right and someone is alongside them.”