Recognition of your role as a carer
The majority of people who are diagnosed with dementia are 65 or over, therefore it is highly likely they will have at least one other medical condition. Looking after someone with dementia who also has other health conditions can be complex and demanding; particularly when the person with dementia finds it difficult to understand their condition or treatment.
If you are caring for someone with multiple health conditions you are likely to come into contact with a number of different health professionals. It is important to recognise that you are a carer and ensure you are given all the information you need about dementia. Ask for information about how the condition will develop, effectiveness of any treatment suggested and any possible side effects. This will ensure you feel as equipped as possible to manage the situation. For help locally the community pharmacist can be a good source of information on medication and minor ailments.
If the demands of caring for someone with multiple health conditions is having an effect on your own health it is important that you ask for a carer’s assessment for you and a community care assessment for the person you care for. If you have both already had an assessment then request a review if the person you care for; or you, need more support. This can open up the opportunity to receive support, information and advice.
Managing hospital, GP appointments and admissions
If the person you care for is admitted to hospital your involvement can be key to their care. People with dementia can become easily disorientated and don’t cope well in unfamiliar environments. It can be beneficial to be prepared in case of a hospital admission and there are some useful steps you can take to help. Make sure the GP and consultant knows that you are the main carer so that you can be involved in consultations and any decisions made particularly around discharge planning and end of life care. See Dying Matters for more information.
Some hospitals and GP surgeries have made important provision for carers. For example:
- Carer passports which allow you to be easily identified as the main carer.
- Flexible access to appointments.
- A nominated carers champion who you can book an appointment with.
- Encouraging you, if you wish, to be more involved with the day to day care of relatives in hospital.
- Enabling you to stay overnight in hospital where the person you care for has been admitted.
The Triangle of Care for dementia can help health services achieve better collaboration between the health professional, carer and the person with dementia. Find out if your hospital has signed up to it and how it can help you.
Getting help from your GP
As the dementia of the person you care for progresses, you may find yourself increasingly taking responsibility for healthcare tasks including making sure the person you care for eats and drinks, and medication.
If you need more information or support speak to the GP.
As a carer you are entitled to a free flu vaccination and in some areas of the UK health checks are offered through the GP surgery.
Regular health checks are as important for you as they are for the person you care for. Checks can help pick up any health problems early and prevent further problems or deterioration.
Next in the Carers Road Map guide: When the carer has to manage changing behaviour
Next review due: June 2017