Zoe Scowcroft is an Admiral Nurse, supporting dementia carers.

How the Legion supports dementia carers

When you’re caring for someone with dementia it can be hard to find the time to care for yourself. Our Admiral Nurses service is there to support carers, so that they and those they’re caring for can get the help they need.

Admiral nurses are there to support dementia carers throughout the journey of dementia.

“Dementia is a growing problem because of the number of people living longer,” says Ben Upton, Admiral Nurse Manager.  “The issues are being acknowledged and looked at by the Legion and other services but they’re not going away just because we’re now acknowledging it and looking at them.”

“It’s not something people plan for.”

“We’ll be there from diagnosis through to more advanced stages and even post-death and into bereavement. Dementia brings with it a lot of challenges, including behavioural issues, social issues and the carers own mental health and their wellbeing.

“It can be very emotional for the carers, if it’s a parent or a brother or sister and people see their personality being stripped a little then they can go into a bereavement before the individual has died. So it’s very hard to manage, it’s not something people plan for.”

Admiral Nurses support those caring for people with dementia.

Admiral Nurses are there to provide support and guidance for people caring for those living with dementia. 

For those who are caring for family members, it can be a nightmare navigating all the different agencies and services out there. Admiral Nurses are there to help, with expert knowledge on what help is out there and how to get it.

Zoe Scocroft has been an Admiral nurse for five years.

“We’ll be liaising with social care and social workers, with the NHS, occupational therapists, district nurses and GPs. It’s needs led, so it’s very wide ranging and we’re not restricted with who we can reach out to. We’ll identify what people need at that time and go liaise with them.”

A growing problem

“There are two main challenges we face,” says Ben. “The first is the nature of the illness, that it is progressive and without a cure. In 99% of cases it is going to deteriorate fairly quickly.

“The second challenge is getting the care that’s required. It’s not an easy process for people to navigate the services, it’s not an easy process for me either so I can imagine it’s very difficult for those who aren’t accessing the Admiral Nurses service.”

Admiral Nurses provide support for those living with dementia as well as their carers.

Dementia doesn’t just affect those living with it, but also those who are carers for dementia sufferers.

Dementia is beginning to be diagnosed in younger people, and this can raise a fresh set of issues.

“We are beginning to get people diagnosed younger,” says Zoe, “which is because we’re getting better at diagnosing people.

“In these cases it might be their parents looking after them, instead of a son or a daughter as is the case with older patients. When people are diagnosed younger it impacts a younger family as well, they might have children who are still teenagers or still have a mortgage to pay off, so there are a lot of implications.”

Getting Dad home

“One case that meant a lot to me was a family where the father had vascular dementia,” says Zoe.

“He’d been moved into full-time care when his wife died. His daughter really wanted him at home so that she could care for him along with her husband and her two children. It was then that she came to us at the Admiral Nurses services.

“I supported her to liaise with the social services, doing things like sitting in on meetings with the social workers. We were looking at ways of getting her father out of full-time care and getting him back home. A lot of this was about giving the carer all the information she needed so that she could go away and make contact with other agencies herself.

“I’m pleased to say that he did come home. There were challenges along the way, such as accessing appropriate social care and day care, which was a struggle but we got there in the end.

“Then over the past couple of months he started becoming more unwell and was admitted to hospital. I was there to support the family around the hospital admission and to help the daughter to understand what might lie ahead, because it was felt at one point that he could home and he would be quite well. Whereas I was thinking that this could be palliative, and I prepared the daughter for this as the hospital staff weren’t having this conversation with her.

“Just prior to him being discharged it was agreed that he was reaching the end of his life. As we’d already had the conversations with her about it, she was more prepared and not as shocked as she might have been.

Part of caring for those with dementia is ensuring they have access to the care they need.

“I made sure that she had all the support she needed to look after her dad at home and be a mum to her two children and be a wife to her husband as well. She was spinning a lot of plates and it wasn’t just about her dad, it was about the whole situation.

“She would ring me whenever there was something happening with her dad that she wasn’t quite sure of because she’d never looked after somebody who was dying before.

“If you haven’t then you don’t know what that looks like or what the symptoms are like. So she would ring me and ask me questions and I’d be able to advise her whether things were normal or not normal and this is who you need to contact.

“When he did eventually die he was holding her hand. He died in the home he was born in, which was what she wanted and that’s what we were able to support her with.”

Find out more about the Legion’s services

From providing dedicated care homes for older veterans, to dementia care and in-home support for carers, The Royal British Legion is here to help you live on through life.