Stoke-on-Trent’s Douglas Macmillan Hospice not only provides help and care for adults facing incurable illnesses, but practical, clinical and emotional support is also being provided for people with Dementia and their families.
This Admiral Nurse Service was introduced at the hospice, which serves primarily the North Staffordshire area, in 2017. The service was developed in partnership with Dementia UK, the national charity that provides specialist dementia care for families through Admiral Nursing.
Wendy Mountford, who has extensive experience within nursing, was appointed by the Dougie Mac to fulfil what was the first Admiral Nurse role in Staffordshire at the time.
“My passion for working with people with Dementia led to my desire of becoming an Admiral Nurse, but until fairly recently, there was never a position available in North Staffordshire,” said Wendy.
“It was when I was invited to a Stakeholder meeting at Dougie Mac, that this became possible. They were on the lookout for someone with extensive experience of working with people living with dementia to upskill in end of life care. Thankfully I was a suitable candidate and jumped at the chance of being seconded to the hospice for 2 years.”
Wendy’s role involves community visits to those in advanced stages of dementia who have been referred from Palliative Care Nurses, GPs, District Nurses and Approach Cafes. Visits enable Wendy to pinpoint which support services will be most suitable for a person as well as their relatives and carers.
Wendy adds: “This could include making a referral for a Dougie Mac Volunteer Buddy to visit the patient and their carer, providing companionship and if required, physical help like light housework, transport to appointments or going on trips out. I’ll also make referrals for home visits by our very own complimentary therapists to minimise stress and promote relaxation for both patients and their carers.
“Predominantly though, I support carers through education that is tailored and unique to all individuals. This covers what to expect in the future, techniques to deal with behaviours and managing emotions, particularly anticipatory grief.”
A two-tier training system is also provided through the Admiral Nurse service for staff and volunteers at the Dougie Mac.
One person who knows all too well about the benefits of the Admiral Nurse service, is Alan Hewitt, of Stoke-on-Trent, who received support from Wendy after his wife, Ann was diagnosed with Dementia in 2017. At the time Alan had also been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Prior to his own diagnosis, Alan had cared for his wife at home but then Ann had to be cared for at Bradwell Nursing Home while Alan recovered.
“It took a while for me to be back on my feet again but when I could finally get out and about, I attended a Carer Café ran by Approach, a charity that delivers a wide variety of services to support the needs of people with dementia – also offering support to their carers,” said Alan. “It was here I met Wendy Mountford. Wendy had so much experience with dementia and was able to offer so much insight into the condition; something that’d been completely lacking for both Ann and I when we received the diagnosis. I’d built a great affinity with Wendy so I asked the Manager of the Bradwell Nursing Home wing that Ann was in to get in touch with Wendy to see how she could support us going forward. Unfortunately from this point, Ann started to deteriorate rapidly and just hours after Wendy had met her for just the second time on 12th September 2017, she passed away peacefully.” Alan continued: “Wendy remained close and visited me at home to see how I was getting on and to give me help and advice to manage the bereavement. She was always available to lend a listening ear and she made the things that were bearing down on me easier to deal with.”
Wendy invited Alan to get involved with several hospice initiatives and Alan is now on the steering group for the Dougie Mac Admiral Nurse Service. Alan also attends the hospice’s Advance Care Planning focus group along with other carers, social workers and Wendy to discuss what’s in place and how best to facilitate patient’s wishes as they approach end of life.
Alan says: “I’ve also become a Dementia Friend Champion to encourage others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia. As part of this role, I’ll be helping Wendy deliver Tier 2 Dementia training at the Hospice. Being involved in these initiatives is great – I get to give back to the hospice that supported me in hard times whilst also actively working towards a better understanding of Dementia in the community. Going from being a carer around the clock to not having Ann around anymore has been a difficult loss to adjust to, but the involvement I’ve had with Wendy and Dougie Mac has given me real purpose.”