Hospice is first in country to appoint mental health nurse as dementia cases increase

A DURHAM hospice has become the first in the country to appoint a special mental health nurse to address the growing numbers of people with dementia.

Sharron Tolman has joined the staff at St Cuthbert’s Hospice in Durham City.

The North East’s first Admiral Nurse is employed by the hospice but will get clinical supervision through the Admiral Nurse organisation, which is supported by Dementia UK.

Sharron has been recruited to the hospice to establish ties within the community and with health care providers.

The ultimate aim is to help people living with dementia to stay at home safer and longer, and to support their carers.

Sharron said: “Most people with dementia want to stay at home and most carers want them to stay at home. But the first step is diagnosis. After that, carers can access support in County Durham through community health teams, GPs and social workers.

“They can get gadgets in the home that help people stay safely at home, like cut-off switches for gas cookers and sensors on outside doors to alert people if someone is leaving.

“We want to raise awareness of dementia to ensure fewer people in our community go undiagnosed. We hope to offer education and peer support groups for carers, hosted here at the hospice, and we hope in time to offer limited places to people with dementia, which is a life-limiting illness.”

Sharron added that establishing the views of people living with dementia was also very important to ensure that they have a voice and involvement in the services they are receiving.

Sharron’s appointment is in response to the rapidly growing numbers of people living and dying with dementia in County Durham.

Figures quoted in Durham County Council’s 2013 Joint Strategic Needs Assessment show that by 2030, there will be a 78 per cent increase in the numbers of people with late-onset dementia in the county. About 3,000 people have been diagnosed with dementia in County Durham, but that is only half the expected number, meaning there are thousands more who have not been diagnosed.