Features

Providing care for people with dementia alongside other long-term conditions

This is the second in a series of six articles that aim to encourage nurse leaders to explore how to use research findings to improve practice and services where they work. The series focuses on research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and included in NIHR Dissemination Centre publications. The authors seek to relate the content directly to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code of professional standards of practice and behaviour, specifically the themes of practising safely and promoting professionalism and trust.

Introduction by Elaine Maxwell, clinical adviser at the National Institute for Health Research Dissemination Centre

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Dissemination Centre publishes high-quality evidence on specific health needs in short, easy-to-read summaries. One example is Supporting Carers of People with Dementia, from our Highlights series, which provides evidence at a glance, together with commentary and implications for practice.

There are estimated to be 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, although not all have a formal medical diagnosis. A person’s risk of developing dementia rises from one in 14, for people over 65, to one in six, for those over 80 (Bunn et al 2016). At the same time, it is estimated that around 10 million have two or more long-term conditions and the risk of this too rises with age (Prince et al 2014).

It is therefore inevitable that some people will have dementia and at least one other long-term condition. Health and social care involving, for example, specialist nurses and whole-systems pathways has done much to improve the care of people with one long-term condition but designing services that meet the needs of people with multiple comorbidities remains a challenge.

In this article, we consider the challenge of researching this area by considering how one of the studies featured in our Highlight, Comorbidity and dementia: a mixed method study on improving healthcare for people with dementia (CoDem) (Bunn et al 2016), approached the subject and we look at how this study’s outputs can help senior nurses improve care provision.

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