The “groundbreaking” local delivery of the Orkney Dementia Strategy has moved a step forward with the adoption of the “exemplar” document.
This follows a period of consultation with those at the heart of the strategy - unpaid carers and people living with dementia - who gave their support to the strategy.
The updated strategy, taking cognisance of feedback, was brought back to the Orkney Islands Council/NHS Orkney Integration Joint Board last week where members gave it their overwhelming backing.
Presenting the strategy, Gillian Coghill, NHS Orkney Alzheimer Scotland Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “Feedback strongly reinforced that the priorities and commitments align well with the outcomes needed to make a positive difference to the lived experience of people living with dementia and unpaid carers in Orkney.
“There were pledges of support for implementation from a number of statutory, voluntary and community groups reflecting great synergy to improve care and support in line with the strategy.”
She said some concern had been expressed during the consultation over whether the outcomes could realistically be achieved, particularly in the current climate.
“The main question raised was about how this could be funded. This has been recognised and amendments made to the strategy accordingly.”
There was also a need to include the impact of COVID-19 within the strategy.
Ms Coghill explained: “Whilst many people will have experienced detriment from the pandemic we must recognise the compounded impact for those affected by dementia. Statistics show that the most common pre-existing condition among those who died from COVID-19 was dementia.
“Carers have highlighted the profound impact of the sudden expansion of their roles due to reduced access to services and support. People living with dementia and carers told us that this support is their life line. There has been widespread concern about the separation from loved ones during the pandemic. This has also had greater impact for some people with dementia who have difficulty in understanding or remembering information about why their families are not with them, why they are being encouraged to physically distance or why staff are wearing masks.”
Ms Coghill said this reinforced the need for dementia to be considered specifically in relation to human rights and risks.
“We have an opportunity to support and build on some of the innovative practice, excellent community resilience and spirit evident during COVID-19 times. We need to capture the learning from this as we go forward, with a recognition that things will be different and some initiatives may take longer than originally anticipated.”
Anna Buchanan, of the Life Changes Trust – a charity that invests in and supports several groups, including people living with dementia and their unpaid carers - described the approach taken to the strategy as “exemplary”.
“The partnership approach has, I believe, got to the heart of the matter. We are delighted to have been able to have supported this and continue to support this.”
The Trust contributed up to £45,000 to support an independent evaluation of the impact of the strategy.
Interim Chief Officer, Orkney Health and Care, Gillian Morrison added: “The Orkney Dementia Strategy is a significant document which outlines the proposed collaborative approach to dementia support and services in Orkney.
“In Orkney there are 474 people currently estimated to be living with dementia. This is projected to almost double by 2041. These demographics demonstrate that we must facilitate change to build capacity and resilience to ensure a sustainable future for dementia in Orkney.
“We have listened to the people at the heart of the experience – people living with dementia and their carers. This grass roots approach is essential to ensure that our resources are aligned to the outcomes that make a real difference to the lived experience. Moving forward, we will use the resources available to us to strive to achieve the broad range of identified outcomes to support a structured, person centred pathway for people with dementia so that they feel valued, informed, involved and supported at every stage of their condition.
“The strategy reinforces that we need to do some things differently and to find ways to overcome the challenges we face including limited resources.
“We will continue to work together with people with dementia, unpaid carers and our other partners to find innovative solutions through open, honest and transparent dialogue to ensure that we develop high quality, grass roots informed supports and services.”
An independent and expertly evaluated social return on investment benefit has been projected as being a £5.14 return within the community for every £1 spent. The social return on investment is for the Dementia Orkney project run by Age Scotland Orkney.
Board chair, Councillor Rachael King said: “The word used here is ‘exemplary’ in terms of how this has been conducted. This is very much driven by people living with dementia and those caring for people with dementia – it comes from the place it needs to come from.”
The strategy includes a foreword statement from people living with dementia and carers, themselves, which states: “A diagnosis of dementia can be very hard to accept and has an impact, not just on the person living with dementia but on those closest to them. Acceptance can be difficult, and individuals need to be supported in this area.
“It is our hope that the Orkney Dementia Strategy will help to support people living with dementia, their loved ones and carers, and that the support provided will be truly person-centred. Resources need to be offered which address the big issues such as innovative solutions to respite, care home provision and services that help people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
“We support a strategy that is realistic, practical and implemented in a timely manner, appropriate to our local context. It is crucial that people with appropriate skills are recruited to support those living with dementia and that future needs are planned for.”
The Orkney Dementia Strategy 2020-2025 sets out a renewed vision for dementia care and support in Orkney.
The five-year strategy provides a framework for improvement in support and services for people with a diagnosis of dementia and those who provide unpaid support for them throughout communities in Orkney.
Members of the IJB approved adoption of the strategy.