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Visiting scheme to help student nurses ‘understand life with dementia’

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A local education and training board has launched a ground-breaking education initiative to help healthcare students understand what life is like with dementia.

Under the Time for Dementia initiative, students will visit families living with dementia two or three times each year throughout their course.

It was launched to 150 nursing students at the University of Surrey on 25 March. The visits will start in June and form part of the student’s clinical placement.

“We believe [the scheme] could support a profound change in professional attitudes to dementia”

Sube Banerjee

The scheme will also be rolled out to paramedic students at the university and medical students and Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

The initiative is being led by Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex (HEKSS), a local education and training board that is part of Health Education England.

Also collaborating on the project are the Alzheimer’s Society, Surrey University, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.  

Students will visit in pairs for two to four hours at a time and will use a structured template for the visit, undertaking activities such as life history work.

Visits will be supplemented by pre-visit information and preparation including guides, plenary sessions, additional educational sessions and a conference for all those involved in the programme.

Sube Banerjee, professor of dementia and associate dean of HEKSS, said: “We believe Time for Dementia could support a profound change in professional attitudes to dementia, transforming care for patients and their families.”

Meanwhile, a healthcare initiative has been launched this month in the region to try and tackle toothaches and mouth problems in elderly people, especially those living in care homes.

The Improving the Oral Health of Older Persons Initiative is also being led by Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The scheme aims to improve oral health of older persons in Kent, Sussex and Surrey. It is starting with those living in care homes by raising awareness and training carers.

Its organisers note that there are a range of oral health challenges for older people including loosening teeth, dry mouths and difficulty using a toothbrush.

These in turn can lead to poor nutrition, low self-esteem and the exacerbation of other conditions including diabetes.

The scheme has been informed by research into the experiences of older patients and their carers, carried out at the University of Greenwich’s Centre for Positive Ageing.

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