My job

'So much to do to create a dementia-tolerant society'

Making a difference in older people's care can only happen if we work as a society, says Dementia UK's director of clinical services, Paul Edwards

Making a difference in older people's care can only happen if we work as a society, says Dementia UK's director of clinical services, Paul Edwards

What is your current role?

I am director of clinical services at Dementia UK, the provider of specialist dementia support for families through Admiral Nurses. The role is London based, but has a national focus.

My role is to grow the number of Admiral Nurses across the UK. I’ll be doing this in a number of ways, including setting up the right governance processes to develop new services. I’ll also be ensuring that our nurses are at the forefront of dementia care through ongoing professional development.

Why did you become a nurse?

I wanted to make a difference to older people’s care, particularly the care of people with dementia and their families, as there simply wasn’t enough support for them. As a society we need to view, understand and respond to the issues that dementia brings.

Where did you train?

At St James’s University Hospital in Leeds.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I lead a senior team of highly skilled nurses who are so committed to improving the lives of people with dementia and their families. It’s immensely empowering to work for an organisation that stands side by side with people affected by dementia.

What is your greatest challenge?

Changing a health and social care system that still doesn’t adequately address the rights and needs of people with dementia.

What has given you most satisfaction?

There has been an attitude shift in dementia care over the past 20 years, but there is still so much to do to create a dementia-tolerant society. However, the difference from when I trained to where we are now is heartening.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

Spending time with my family, including our rescue dog Baz, and listening to music. Everyone needs an outlet and music is definitely one for me.

What or who inspires you, and why? 

People who speak up about making a better world. We have a growing activism among people with dementia and their families. Their stories, their passion and their willingness to tell us what life is like is inspirational – and makes me believe that we can make things better.  

When working with patients with dementia what qualities do you think a nurse should possess?

Energy, pragmatism, empathy, compassion, and a willingness to adapt to changing situations.

What advice would you give a newly-registered nurse? 

Never believe that dementia care is a backwater for practice and never buy into the idea that nursing is better in health rather than social care. It isn’t: there are many excellent nurses across health and social care. Nursing is nursing wherever you work and our job is to make a difference.

What is likely to affect nurses working with dementia patients over the next 12 months? 

Increasing rates of frailty and co-morbidity among people with dementia will place even more pressures on our health and social care system. This makes the case for new nurses in dementia care, challenging some of the entrenched attitudes about ageing and dementia.

Dementia UK

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