Caring for people with dementia can present complex challenges, even for experienced healthcare professionals.
With more and more dementia patients populating hospital wards, it’s crucial that staff at every step of the care pathway have a comprehensive understanding of the condition.
That’s where Dianne Campbell comes in.
Dianne is not a doctor or a nurse, but she is uniquely placed to provide vital support to the Trust’s dementia care team - she has dementia herself.
Funding from Imperial Health Charity has covered the cost of a year’s part-time salary for Dianne to join the team as a Lived Experience Trainer.
In regular question and answer sessions, she helps to educate and empower staff across the Trust by providing a unique insight into life with the condition.
“They ask me how I deal with my memory, who I call, what plans I put in place in case I’m sick,” she explains.
“Some people know very little about dementia, so they wonder how you cope with it. They imagine what it would be like if they, or one of their family members, lost the ability to remember things.”
Dianne has lived with a mild form of dementia for the last five years and has developed ways of managing the condition so that she can continue to lead a normal life.
Working a typical six-hour week, she assists the dementia care team at St Mary’s and takes part in a staff training session with between 60 and 80 healthcare professionals once a month.
Many participants said their attitude towards dementia was completely transformed after speaking with Dianne.
Jo James, the Trust’s Lead Nurse for Dementia, said: “This project sends a really powerful message about how we deal with dementia across the Trust. It’s about the NHS giving a message that we value people with dementia.”
Dianne believes it’s essential for doctors and nurses to “treat the person, not the condition” and believes that enabling people with dementia to contribute to patient care can have a restorative effect.
“It’s very important that everyone has a full understanding of dementia,” she adds. “This programme has not only supported staff but it’s helped me understand my own condition as well.”