Why our Dementia Academy is so essential to healthcare – and what it’s doing next

19 Dec 2018

The Neurology Academy is educational umbrella to a growing number of neurological conditions, with one-off roadshow series and regular MasterClasses covering a number of specialisms. One of our more recent additions has been the Dementia Academy, which is now preparing to run its sixth MasterClass.Of all the conditions currently affecting our global society, dementia is perhaps one of the most concerning. The world is aging, and with dementia being specifically associated with the aging brain, this is a red flag to our health and social care system. Currently over 50 million people are living with dementia and this number is expected to more than double in the next 30 years with over 130 million people projected to live with the condition by 2050.This increase places a level of urgency on our society to find both treatments and preventative measures for dementia, but at a very practical level, it means that the number of health and social care practitioners coming into contact with a person living with dementia is also on the rise.Dementia is a complex and variable condition, and it is essential to equip healthcare professionals to support those affected by dementia now, in this moment. That means upskilling consultants to confidently recognise and diagnose it as early as possible. It means helping professionals to unpick the services and support that might be needed and to understand how to provide optimal care in their localities. And it means educating as much of the healthcare workforce as possible about the lifestyle elements linked to reducing the onset of – or preventing – dementia.These are all things that the Dementia Academy is seeking to do through its MasterClass, and in response to these needs is continually adapting its educational content to suit a growing range of professionals who are increasingly encountering dementia in their practice.Initially focussed very much on clinical presentation and management, the MasterClass is adapting as we recognise that there are a whole raft of professionals who are supporting people living with dementia, and their carers, in a range of healthcare settings. The courses are currently aimed at all healthcare professionals involved in dementia care and cover topics like assessment, less common forms of dementia, and psychiatric and behavioural disturbances.Our next MasterClass, taking place in November 2019, will be further unpacking diagnostic criteria, looking at the different presentations of dementia and the physiological, cognitive, behavioural and psychological elements that might indicate it. The Academy has always prided itself on practical support to tangibly improve services and support on the ground through our courses, and in response to a need for specific practical support, we will be looking at how to develop an MCI clinic in delegates’ localities. Finally, we are becoming increasingly aware that we have a responsibility, not only to supporting the current situation, but to work towards preventing dementia through our work. We know that over a third of dementia cases are theoretically preventable through lifestyle changes thanks to research by bodies like the Lancet Commission 2018 and will be working to educate professionals around the importance of encouraging a healthy lifestyle across a range of areas including movement, nutrition, and positive mental health.Our Dementia MasterClasses are very much aimed at specialists at present, and we are aware that this is just one area of professionals looking to increase their understanding of dementia and optimal care. We have developed a free and fully accessible toolkit for anyone else looking to increase their understanding and optimise their local practice.This online tool, developed by leading specialists and faculty members Professor Iracema Leroi, Sue Thomas and Dr Tony Burch, maps out the care pathway a dementia patient will follow and provides an aide-memoire for the services and support needed from diagnosis to end-of-life care. The online, interactive tool enables clinicians to easily navigate the different elements of the care pathway and access relevant documents and further information all in one place.

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Promoting prevention, supporting management

Led by proactive clinicians determined to see improvement in the way we prevent, diagnose and manage dementias, Dementia Academy supports healthcare professionals with the latest tools, resources and courses to do just that.