Extra support for people affected by dementia at Colchester Hospital

(From left to right) Admiral Nurse Vanessa McLean, CHUFT director of nursing Catherine Morgan, Victoria Lyons, senior consultant Admiral Nurse (Dementia UK) and Admiral Nurse Maisey Dear

The families of people with dementia who are being treated at Colchester Hospital in Essex are now receiving dedicated support to overcome difficulties and stay connected to their relatives following the launch of a new specialist service.

Former dementia care nurse specialists Maisey Dear and Vanessa Mclean have converted to Admiral Nurses to further improve care offered to people with dementia and their families or carers.

Admiral Nurses are specialist dementia nurses offering emotional support, clinical expertise and practical advice. They are supported and continuously trained by the charity Dementia UK to ensure that they stay at the forefront of excellence in dementia care.

Vanessa and Maisey receive referrals from colleagues when a patient has been admitted to the hospital and their family is experiencing difficulties or struggling to cope. They offer one-to-one support and expert guidance, as well as techniques to help with areas such as communication or managing behaviour changes associated with dementia. They can also help with discharge planning, give information about different types of dementia and its progression, and signpost people to sources of further support, such as carers’ groups.

The pair are among just 12 Admiral Nurses working in acute hospitals across the country, and a total of 217 working in different settings across the UK. As part of their role, they will attend monthly training sessions organised by Dementia UK to ensure they are up-to-date with best practice, and will also offer training, education and advice to their colleagues at Colchester.

“Dementia can be very distressing for families and carers, and when their relatives comes into hospital it is usually because they are in crisis,” said Maisey, who has worked at the hospital for 20 years. “Our job is to listen to their concerns and offer them help with coping strategies or onward referral to other agencies which could offer further support.

“Sometimes, just taking the time to sit and chat to someone and answer their questions can help them feel less alone and isolated, and also shows them that there is support out there. We firmly believe that supporting the family helps them to look after the patient more effectively, and are very excited about the difference this new role will make.”

Vanessa, who has worked at Colchester since 2008, said: “We are very proud to be able to offer the Admiral Nurse service at Colchester and hope that we can make a real difference to people’s lives.

“Being a carer is really hard work, and is even more difficult when you are caring for someone with a cognitive impairment. They are real unsung heroes and it’s vitally important that we do whatever we can to support them, which is what the role of Admiral Nurse is all about.”

In their previous roles, Maisey and Vanessa were responsible for screening all inpatients aged over 75 for dementia as part of the National Dementia Strategy, which focuses on increasing diagnosis rates. This work is now carried out by staff on the wards, enabling the Admiral Nurses more time to focus on supporting patients with dementia and their families.

Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK, said: “People with dementia often end up in hospital for other reasons. The Admiral Nurses in Colchester Hospital will work to give these patients the best possible care, with their specific requirements in mind, as well as ensuring the families of these patients are kept involved and well-informed. I am very pleased to welcome Maisey and Vanessa to the Admiral Nurse service.”