Dementia nurse improving quality of life for people in Wakefield


During Dementia Awareness Week (4th-10th July), South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is raising awareness of groundbreaking initiatives it has launched in Wakefield to help older people living with dementia, as well as their carers and families.

Dementia Awareness Week is an annual event run by the Alzheimer’s Society that aims to raise awareness of dementia. This year the Alzheimer’s Society is asking people to think about the simple things they can do to make life for someone with dementia more manageable and enjoyable.

The Trust, which provides specialist mental health and learning disability services in the Wakefield area, has a number of innovative projects taking place across Wakefield which are already improving the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers.

One of these initiatives is the service specialist continence advisor Jane Spencer provides.

Incontinence in people who have dementia is often a gateway into full time care. Carers find it very difficult to manage and it is frequently cited as the determining factor in a relative or carer deciding that they can no longer cope. It can be very embarrassing for the person experiencing incontinence and the resulting behaviours can be upsetting and difficult for the carer to understand. Continence problems can often be the precipitating factor to admission to residential or nursing care. In Wakefield, Jane Spencer is a Practice Effectiveness Nurse who offers specialist continence advice to people with dementia and their carers. In 2007, Jane won the mental health category of the Nursing Standard ‘Nurse 2007’ award for her work and was also named ‘dementia nurse of the year’ in 2009 by Dementia UK.

Everyone who is seen by mental health services for older people in Wakefield is asked about any continence problems. A continence care support worker works with Jane to implement care plans for community clients following assessment and all community clients are reviewed on a three-monthly basis or more frequently if requested. An audit showed that a high proportion of people who are offered advice on the management of continence problems find that they can eliminate incontinence and the number of people who actually need continence products is lower than might have been expected.

This work and other examples of the Trust’s innovative care is detailed in a regional dementia innovation directory. The directory gives people across the region, from commissioners to carers, a flavour of what can and is being achieved to enable people to live well with dementia. The Trust’s senior planning manager Mary Duggan worked to pull together all of the information for the directory on behalf of the Yorkshire and Humber Improvement Partnership (YHIP).

Jane Currie the general manger for the Trust’s older people’s services in Wakefield said, “Dementia Awareness Week is all about raising awareness of dementia and the support available for those who live with the condition, as well as their carers and families. It is a great opportunity for us to promote the pioneering work that’s been going on in the Trust’s older people’s services recently, that makes such a difference to the quality of life of people with the dementia, as well as their carers and families.

Speaking about the specialist continence work that takes place in Wakefield Jane added, "In many cases continence problems were seen as a secondary complaint with other mental and physical conditions being of primary importance. It is anticipated therefore that the provision of advice on continence management which can lead to a successful treatment or management process may help to alleviate the other health problems of the service users. I hope that this work and the other innovative projects across the Trust continue to have a positive impact on dementia care and that more and more people benefit from them. “

For more information about Dementia Awareness Week visit

Dementia nurse improving quality of life for people in Wakefield

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