From April 2022 Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board have commissioned 42 Dementia Coordinators to work across the area. This is a huge step forward in helping Kent and Medway meet the National Institute for Care Excellence recommendation that everyone with dementia has a named professional to help coordinate their care. 25 of these coordinators are working for ADSS across north and west Kent, with another 17 based in east Kent, led by Age UK, Herne Bay and Whitstable. A coordinator’s role is essentially to act as a first point of contact from pre-diagnosis to the end of someone’s life, supporting people through the entire dementia pathway, and helping them to navigate the complex health and social care system.
A big part of their role is to help prevent a further escalation of any difficulties someone is experiencing and there is nowhere this is more important than when it comes to safeguarding. One of the skills of a Dementia Coordinator is their ability to recognise and raise safeguarding concerns in order to protect those living with dementia, and to ensure that any potential risks are addressed, and relevant measures are taken to improve people’s wellbeing. Our Dementia Coordinators will take a preventative approach and offer as much support as possible before harm occurs. Our coordinators will work closely with local Safeguarding Teams. Christina, our Senior Dementia Coordinator in north Kent, has been doing just that and she said “At ADSS we have built a great working relationship with the North Kent safeguarding Team. We have seen many situations where we have had to raise an alert for financial abuse, at ADSS we feel passionate that people with dementia have the right to live in safety and free from abuse. We see too often that people don’t believe a person who has dementia, but we always go on what we have been told and seen. We also think it is better to be safe than sorry, if a person with dementia is being abused or at risk of abuse it can have a hugely detrimental effect on their well being and confidence.”
“We have recently worked with the safeguarding team on behalf of someone who has dementia. An allegation of financial abuse had been made against a friend of the person as they had online bank access and the bank card. Family was concerned as they couldn’t access the account and no statements could be found at the home. We worked together, with the police, and an investigation took place. Fortunately, they found no evidence of financial abuse, but it did highlight that the lady needed an advocate and more support. She is now living safely and happily in a care home near to her family”
Richard Hill, Senior Practitioner Adult Safeguarding, North Kent works really closely with the ADSS Dementia Coordinators and regularly gets called upon to help protect someone living with dementia from harm. He said “Many of the safeguarding referrals we receive from professionals and public alike, are made to share concerns about somebody who has dementia or suspected dementia, as they can be susceptible to abuse of all forms like anyone else, perhaps more so.”
“Some of those referrals come from organisations who care for people with dementia or their carers, or both, and this is very much the case with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services (ADSS). Recognising and reporting signs of abuse and reporting to Safeguarding is a very important role of the Dementia Coordinators, and the relationship with the coordinators makes this often a more effective process.”
“Because ADSS work with people and support carers, often before they need social care support, they also identify stressors and situations where preventative safeguarding or social care support can reduce the risk of abuse before it gets to that stage, and this proactive liaison is vital for safeguarding and social care services.”
ADSS coordinators utilise a person-centred model of care in order to create a support plan that is specific to an individual and their needs. This typically involves the coordinator working with professionals from a range of organisations and internal and external services, from GP surgeries and Memory Clinics to Social Services. It is the Dementia Coordinators ability to take a holistic view of the person with dementia, their situation and support networks that has meant that they have become an invaluable resource for Safeguarding Officers across the county. When a Safeguarding Officer receives a referral because someone living with dementia has been abused or there is a suspicion they have been, it is their role to identify how to support the person to prevent further harm. Richard Hill again explains “As a safeguarding practitioner, I am always looking for the best and safest way to contact someone or approach the subject in a sensitive way, and such a scenario would be where carer stress leads to possible physical or emotional abuse”.
“Through relationships with the Dementia Coordinators in our area, we have worked effectively and carried out joint visits, even when the referral has not been made by ADSS; or indeed they have not been involved. Because ADSS now support people and their carers prior to diagnosis, for emotional support and information as well as private care, their involvement can often be part of the intervention that resolves or prevents abuse occurring.”
Already the ADSS Dementia Coordinators have supported many people with a wide range of complex needs. Having supported people to access a wide range of support; from people who were feeling low and like all was lost because their home was out of control, to people who were getting lost but in desperate need of activity and stimulation. People who have not accessed services because there were language barriers are now chatting regularly to a Dementia Coordinator in Punjabi. Already the Dementia Coordinators are working with people with dementia to achieve life changing enhancing outcomes and by working together with local professionals, like Safeguarding Officers, they are reaching more people and making a difference where the outcome could be very different.
In East Kent you can contact your Dementia Coordinator on 01622 943 257. In order to get in touch with your local ADSS Dementia Coordinator, you can call our Dementia Coordinator line on 0800 035 2221, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you.