Comment

​Sleepwalking into a dementia crisis

Nursing shortages and the financial challenges facing the NHS are putting the future of dementia care at risk, says dementia expert Professor June Andrews 
dementia

Nursing shortages and the financial challenges facing the NHS are putting the future of dementia care at risk, says dementia expert Professor June Andrews

The increasing awareness around issues related to dementia, ageing and frailty is undoubtedly welcome, but there are areas of nursing policy that all nurses urgently need to pay attention to.

We know that the ageing UK population presents problems for the workforce, and for health and social care services.

Older people need to receive additional resources, particularly towards the end of life and especially if they have dementia.

But in recent decades as our older population increased, geriatric beds were closed and long-term care was moved from the NHS hospital sector into the community and care homes.

Unable to survive

...

Nursing shortages and the financial challenges facing the NHS are putting the future of dementia care at risk, says dementia expert Professor June Andrews 


Nursing and care homes have become so poorly funded that many cannot survive. Photo: IStock

The increasing awareness around issues related to dementia, ageing and frailty is undoubtedly welcome, but there are areas of nursing policy that all nurses urgently need to pay attention to. 

We know that the ageing UK population presents problems for the workforce, and for health and social care services. 

Older people need to receive additional resources, particularly towards the end of life and especially if they have dementia.

But in recent decades as our older population increased, ‘geriatric’ beds were closed and long-term care was moved from the NHS hospital sector into the community and care homes.  

Unable to survive 

Nursing and care homes were well funded by the state initially, but over the past 30 years they have become so poorly funded that many cannot survive as businesses.

Elder care provision was at first led by the public sector and then topped up by charities and the private sector. But the public sector has now been forced, mainly, to outsource eldercare.

For the first time, the number of care home beds in the UK dropped last year. Any care home that is ‘exposed’ to local authority-funded residents has difficulty making ends meet, unless families pay weekly ‘top up’ fees.  

Some older people require nursing care, yet a combination of nursing shortages, the cost of agency cover and the funding situation means nursing homes are shutting every week.

Potential personal crisis

NHS nurses in every sector cannot afford to ignore these changes, which increase pressures on community staff and acute hospital beds.

As a predominantly female workforce, nurses need to consider the personal as well as professional issues. More women than men get dementia, and work as paid or family caregivers.

If nurses, particularly female nurses, do not consider now how they are going to manage ageing relatives and their own later years, they may be sleepwalking into a personal and family financial crisis.  

As a specialist nurse in old age and frailty, I can see only future routes for alleviation: personal insurance or giving up work to care. What will you do?


About the author 

 

 

 

Professor June Andrews is a dementia expert and former director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Scotland’s University of Stirling

@ProfJuneAndrews

 

 

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