Nurses need specialist training for Alzheimer’s

The Herald - 18 September 2009

ALZHEIMER'S is a 'Cinderella' condition which is stigmatised and hidden 'the way cancer was 30 years ago' according to the author of a report to be launched on World Alzheimer Day on Monday.

Nurses should be given special training to deal with the growing number of people who face a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland, according to nurse consultant Dot Weaks, whose report 'There is much more to my practice than checking up on tablets' is to be launched at the University of Abertay, Dundee. She found that nurses who were given training in helping patients to come to terms with the knowledge they have Alzheimer's were significantly more effective in dealing with patients.


“Nurses are very good at giving advice because that is what they are trained to do. They are not always so good at listening to emotional pain because they want to make it better. They need to understand that what they can do for these patients is listen to their pain and help them to work through it.

“Diagnosis is a real trauma for people. There is still a real stigma, it is often a hidden condition. They tell friends, and friends change the subject. Sometimes their friends avoid them. It’s very sad. Alzheimer’s is where cancer was 30 years ago.

I would love to see something like Maggie’s Centres for people with dementia.”

There are an estimated 70,000 people with the condition in Scotland and that number is expected to almost double in 20 years.

For most Alzheimer’s patients in the early stages of the condition, their main contact with health professionals will be nurses, either at clinics or GPs’ surgeries, or visiting them at home.

These visits, Weaks argues, offer an opportunity to do some useful work.

Even in a short chat of a few minutes, she has found that specially trained nurses can offer a valuable counselling experience which can help the patients to deal with their situation and increases the nurses’ sense of purposefulness and effectiveness.

Alzheimer’s Scotland is hosting a lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University on Tuesday by early-onset Alzheimer’s sufferer and author of Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out, retired psychologist Richard Taylor, from Texas .

The event, which starts at 6pm, is free but ticketed.