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BPS Policy Unit

Mental Health Awareness Week - Dementia: Caring for the Carer

17 May 2018 | by BPS Policy Unit

Psychological research has made, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to our understanding, diagnosis and treatment of dementia. In addition, it can contribute to the development of programmes aimed at reducing the risk of developing dementia.

Psychologists are instrumental in the developing focus on asserting and upholding the human rights of people with dementia and ensuring their active and meaningful involvement in decisions about their own lives and in planning and evaluating the services they receive.

Focusing on the person rather than the disease leads to an emphasis on what helps people to live well with dementia.

Caring for a person with dementia can at times be a stressful experience. In a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Society (2018) more than a third of carers reported feeling stressed by the demands of their role.

The Society believes providing good psychological care is a key element in supporting people with dementia and carers and enabling them to live well with dementia.

In particular, carers derive most benefit from structured multi-component psychological approaches provided by skilled and experienced practitioners over a defined period, followed up by ongoing contact.

Putting the person at the centre of care

Providing emotional support, counselling or psychotherapy, and development of stress management and self-care strategies are considered key interventions.

Therefore the Society recommends the following actions on:

  • Prevention/risk reduction

    As lifestyle factors contribute significantly to the risk of developing dementia a psychological approach is needed to enable people to make sustainable changes in behaviour and adopt healthier lifestyles.

  • Assessment

    As part of the diagnostic process, access to timely and prompt psychological assessment, including specialist neuropsychological assessment, is essential.

  • Planning care

    Improving people’s experience of dementia means ensuring that their care and treatment is individually tailored to their needs throughout the dementia journey.

    People with dementia should be supported in making their own decisions as far as possible. When this is not possible, their wishes, feelings, values and beliefs should be taken into account, in consultation with carers, to the greatest extent possible in making decisions in their best interests.

  • Treatment and support

    People with dementia should have the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities, and be part of a local community that is dementia-friendly and fully supportive.

    Dementia care plans must cover all the person’s needs, including equal access to the right healthcare for other mental or physical health needs.

    To ensure the best possible outcomes for people with dementia, multi-agency multidisciplinary teams in health and social care should include psychologists, and those receiving care in hospitals and care homes should have access to multi-disciplinary teams which include psychologists.

    Psychologists should be involved in training and supporting a workforce able to deliver excellence in dementia care

  • Families and carers

    Families and carers play an important role in improving people’s experience of dementia. They should be included in care planning and should have access to psychological support.

  • Training and research

    Inspiring the change needed to deliver excellence in dementia care means investing in psychological research to improve practice.

- Nigel Atter (Policy Advisor)

View the Society’s report Psychological dimensions of dementia: Putting the person at the centre of care



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