Editor's Viewpoint: Hospice's dementia initiative outstanding
Given the incidence of dementia it is astonishing that until now there was no hospice in the UK which had services tailored to those with the condition and also to assist their carers.
It is therefore to the great credit of the Northern Ireland Hospice that, in conjunction with the Belfast Health Trust, it has been running a three-year project to improve access for those with dementia to specialist palliative care.
Dementia is a horrible disease relentlessly eroding the mental facilities and personality of those affected. With no cure available carers and loved ones can only watch as the person they know fades further and further from reality and recognition.
This week a groundbreaking conference drawing in experts in dementia and palliative care is being held in Belfast in the hope that greater collaboration can bring greater benefits to people with dementia and their carers.
It is well established that hospices through their long experience of dealing with people with terminal illnesses - usually cancer - are the experts in palliative care. By definition hospices should be places of despair, but the opposite is often the case and that is a great consolation to those who are ill and to their relatives.
The aim of the conference is to establish ways to bring that expertise and atmosphere to the care of those with dementia and, as our feature on the NI Hospice today shows, the groundwork is already being laid.
Therapies such as art or music or reminiscence are used to stimulate parts of the brain and give patients a temporary sense of wellbeing. The overall aim is to make the onset of the disease as manageable and bearable as possible for all those directly involved.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
As one of those involved in organising this week's conference noted: why shouldn't dementia have a range of treatments just like any other disease even if it is only to mitigate the symptoms?
Already those who work in the hospice have noted that dementia patients should a greater responsiveness when they are exposed to expert therapy and communication with relatives is improved.
Of course this is not a reversal of the condition which progresses inexorably, but like palliative care of cancer patients the path to the inevitable outcome is less potholed.
This week's conference may leave a valuable legacy for thousands of dementia patients here for many years.