Meeting the challenge of dementia care in Sidmouth

NHS aims to identify dementia sufferers in Sidmouth through GP surgeries

ONE of the key concerns voiced by Sidmouth people in recent months is the need for more support for the carers of people with dementia.

Last week the NHS announced a new memory clinic that has been set up at Stowford Lodge.

This week, health officials have highlighted how they are trying to meet the challenge of people’s desire to have access to the right kind of short break facilities when they need a break.

They say it remains a challenging issue, yet to be completely resolved, but the health and social care agencies concerned are working hard to find solutions that meet local needs.

Commenting on developments made in recent months, Iain Tulley, chief executive of Devon Partnership NHS Trust, said: “We have put some excellent new services in place and we are encouraging people to share their feedback on these.

“It is also a positive move to be working more closely with local care homes so we have a more joined-up approach to supporting people with dementia.

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“We know that working more closely with GPs is also important and we are hoping to find the money to run a pilot in Sidmouth that will enable us to support GP surgeries to identify greater numbers of people living with dementia and those caring for them.

“On the issue of Stowford Lodge itself, we would love to see the building being used for some community purpose in the future, when our teams have relocated and we are no longer using the site.

“We obviously have a public duty to generate a good return on the sale of the property but we will do everything we can to support a community-led initiative.”


High quality training and education can be invaluable in helping carers to cope with what can be an incredibly demanding role.

In Sidmouth, the older people’s community mental health team will shortly be establishing a new course to support carers, to help them come to terms with a friend or loved one’s diagnosis of dementia learn how to deal with what might lie ahead.

The group will be for people caring for those with moderate to advanced forms of dementia and each course should run for seven weeks.

Sessions will help carers understand dementia, its causes, symptoms and treatment and give them advice on dealing with challenging behaviour, managing stress and important legal concerns such as mental capacity and powers of attorney.

Support services and organisations able to provide additional help will be signposted.

The team’s aim is to equip carers with knowledge and skills to help them fulfil their vital caring role while, importantly, looking after their own health and wellbeing.

Devon Virtual Carers Centre is a new carers support service, supported by a number of groups, including East Devon Council for Voluntary Service (CVS).

It gives help and support on a wide range of issues. Tel: 08456 434435.

There has been considerable work with private and voluntary sector providers of care in the Sidmouth area.

Leigh Richardson, practice manager with Axe Valley Complex Care Team, said: “Since last July, we have been meeting with local nursing and care home providers and these sessions have been warmly welcomed and very productive.

“As well as talking generally about issues, such as day care and short breaks for the elderly and people with dementia, we have been able to explain some of the changes that have been made to the provision and funding of services in Devon.

“We have also talked about the numerous services available to people, particularly with regard to standards of care, security and the availability of suitable short breaks and day care in the Sid Valley.

“This is still a work in progress, but care homes are working positively with us, and other agencies, to become more actively involved in identifying the ‘gaps’ in local services and exploring how we might fill them.”

Mr Tulley said: “We have come a long way since I addressed members of Sidmouth Town Council and the local community last June.”

He said members of the working group, led by Mark Williams, had “contributed significantly” to improvements already made and, following its review of services for the Sid Valley, would be publishing its report soon.

“I look forward to talking through its findings with members of the town council and other local people,” he added.