Dementia drain: Hospital ‘spells misery’ for patients

By Lauren Knott

Dementia sufferers often leave hospital in a worse condition than when they entered, a report has claimed.

Research from the Alzheimer’s Society found people with dementia occupy a quarter of hospital beds and spend longer in hospital than those without the illness.

Their deterioration is reflected by ongoing health problems after they leave hospital, when over a third are forced to go into care.

The study, Counting the Cost: caring for people with dementia, has prompted the Society to call for the government to reduce time spent in hospital by people with dementia by one week.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It is shocking that people with dementia are occupying up to a quarter of hospital beds yet there are scandalous variations in quality of dementia care in hospitals.

“A million more people will develop dementia in the next ten years. The NHS needs to start taking dementia seriously.”

Poor hospital care and inadequate training for nurses are the reasons behind the extra time and beds that dementia patients occupy, according to the society, costing the NHS an estimated £80 million per year.

The report found that 47 per cent of carers said being in hospital had a significant negative effect on patients’ health, with over half saying that the person’s dementia also worsened.

Ann Reid, 63, from Eastbourne, whose mother has dementia, said: “My mum quickly became confused and frightened in hospital.

“One day the staff left a sign next to her bed telling her: ‘you are not well, you need to stay in hospital. Just sit there, rest, relax and don’t bang the table’.

“My mum did not understand: she did not have her reading glasses with her and could not remember anything for more than two seconds.”

The government insisted it was tackling the problem, however.

Care services minister Phil Hope said all hospitals had been asked to prioritise appointing a senior member of staff to improve quality of care for people with dementia.

Staff training and the introduction of specialist older people’s mental health teams working in hospitals had also helped, he claimed.

“The national dementia strategy published earlier this year is backed with substantial funding and we are appointing a national clinical director for dementia to lead transformation of services,” Mr Hope added.

“We expect to see urgent improvements continue so people with dementia and their carers get the best care the NHS has to offer no matter where they are or what treatment they need.”