UK’s biggest killer dementia creating urgent need for specialist care

The growing challenge of Dementia care

With dementia as the leading cause of death in the UK and with projections indicating a continued rise in cases over the coming decades, Rowcroft is highlighting the need for heightened support and specialist end-of-life care for people living with the illness. In recent years, the hospice has noticed a substantial increase in the number of patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s – a disease that causes dementia – and the charity recognises the many diverse challenges for these patients and for their carers.

Navigating complex needs

“The rise in dementia is one of the most pressing health and social care issues of our time,” said Rowcroft’s Director of Patient Care Vicky Bartlett. “Due to an escalating presence of dementia in our local community along with the diverse needs of an increasingly ageing population, we’re finding that patients at the end of their lives are presenting more complex symptoms. Patients with dementia experience multiple challenges: they can be unable to express or communicate when they are in pain or distress, they can be unable to make decisions due to cognitive decline and memory loss, they have an increased dependency on caregivers, and their needs are often diverse and complex. Some individuals struggle to engage in conversation, and others are no longer able to recognise their own family members or friends.”

Delivering expert specialist care

Karen Wilson’s sister Dena Modrzew from Teignmouth was cared for by Rowcroft’s Hospice at Home service, prior to Dena’s death at the age of 57 in 2019. In spite of being born with Down’s syndrome and a learning disability, Dena had lived a very full and vibrant life. However in late 2014 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and developed incredibly complex needs. Rowcroft was able to deliver expert specialist care that was sensitive and compassionate, and that helped them all through the toughest of times at the end of Dena’s life.

“Rowcroft gave us precious time to be just a family with a dying loved one,” said Karen. “It meant the world to us to be able to sit with Dena knowing her needs were being met and that she could die in her own bed in her own room at home, just as she had wanted. It was a very peaceful time for everyone and if there is such a thing as a good death then this was it. Rowcroft is like a family that embraces you in the darkest times. It wraps its arms around you when you need it most.”

Responding to increased need

According to the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, there are 15,400 people with dementia in Devon, and this is predicted to rise by 33% over the next 30 years. Responding to the surge in numbers, Rowcroft is asking for regular donations to help the hospice expand its care towards the long-term goal of supporting an annual total of 3,000 patients and those closest to them by 2030.

Rowcroft’s Dementia and Palliative Care Conference

To raise awareness of the need for expert palliative care for those living with dementia, Rowcroft Hospice has also launched the South West’s first-ever Dementia and Palliative Care Conference that will be hosted at Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre on 26 March. The day will offer invaluable insights into the latest advancements, innovations, and research in dementia care, and will include key speakers and experts from across the industry.

“Through our conference, we aim to highlight on the crucial role of palliative care in enhancing the quality of life for people living with dementia,” continued Vicky Bartlett. “At Rowcroft, our overriding aim is to deliver expert specialist support that’s tailored to the unique and individual needs and wishes of each patient and those closest to them. However, we’re also aware that along with an increased complexity of care comes increased challenges for the hospice, particularly pressures on our limited resources and funding.

“As a charity dependent on the generous donations of the public to fund the majority of our care, it’s important that our local community continue to support us so that we can expand our services to care for more people across South Devon. Our vision is firmly rooted in the belief that no one with specialist needs should have to face end of life alone. Please do make a donation if you can. Every contribution makes such a difference for local people who are facing the hardest times imaginable.”

Find out more

Find out more about Rowcroft’s Dementia and Palliative Care Conference here, or make a donation to the hospice here.

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