Dementia is one of the greatest health crises of our time. There are around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, approximately 45,000 of whom live here in Wales. With the statistics rising year on year, it’s likely that most of us will be affected by the disease at some point in our lives. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important to make our communities more supportive of people living with the condition. There is growing movement to achieve this aim – possibly the most prominent initiative is The Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Dementia Friends’ programme. Dementia Friends is a training workshop for individuals, organisations and businesses to help them better understand dementia and assist people with the disease more effectively. It is hoped that there will be 4 million Dementia Friends in the UK by 2020 but Pembrokeshire Dental Centre is way ahead of the pack – we are already proud to have Dementia Friends accreditation!
What does this mean for our patients?
We’ve always done our best to make a trip to the dentist a positive experience for everyone but we understand that our patients living with dementia face extra challenges and might need a little bit more support. As a result of the Dementia Friends workshop, our staff have a better understanding of some of the common problems that people with dementia can face, such as:
- Memory loss
- Confusion and disorientation
- Communication problems – both speaking and processing the speech of others
- Problems with vision and visual perception
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty planning and organising
Knowing about these difficulties helps us to appreciate what a visit to the dentist might be like from the perspective of the person with dementia – it’s easy to see how it could be a confusing or even frightening experience. Becoming a dementia friendly dental practice has helped us to find ways to make a trip to see us as supportive and stress-free as possible. There are a number of things that can make it easier for someone with dementia to access our services and we are conscious of the importance of:
- Creating a welcoming, well lit environment
- Making sure the centre is easy to navigate with clear signage
- Reducing noise levels which can cause anxiety
- Having approachable, friendly, patient staff who giving people extra time to process information and communicate
- Giving clear, concise information without jargon
- Providing written information to aid memory
- Making appointments easier to remember by providing extra reminders
- Understanding that carers may need to accompany patients to ease their anxiety
Maintaining good dental health is very important for people with dementia and it is essential that they see their dentist regularly. Our Dementia Friend status means that our patients and their families can be confident that we will accommodate their needs and support them to continue to access our services. By putting what we have learned into practice, Pembrokeshire Dental Centre is playing a crucial role in making our local community more dementia friendly and helping to improve the lives of those living with the condition.
If you have any questions about how we can help you or a relative living with dementia to access our services, please get in touch and our friendly staff will be happy to help.