[A version of this item appears in: Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 3 Issue 3, October 2012].
Good housing and related services play a vital role in improving the lives of people with dementia. Not only can housing staff assist health professionals in improving dementia diagnosis rates (see for example, Unlocking Early Diagnosis: Improving the Lives of People With Dementia [All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia / Alzheimer’s Society]), they also are able to play an important role in assisting dementia sufferers to stay in their own homes for longer. This latter role helps to reduce the increasing costs for health and social care.
Housing With Care helps people with dementia to live in the community, delaying a move into a care home. Beechwood Court is an example of an extra care scheme run by Willow Housing and Care, with care workers and scheme managers trained in dementia awareness and which incorporates dementia-friendly design to help people with dementia continue living independently in the scheme.
Housing-related care and support, including home adaptations and telecare services, help reduce pressures on NHS acute services such as accident and emergency departments. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing operates an assistive technology service which has been designed to help tenants with dementia live independently. Fall detectors and lifting cushions have reduced the number of paramedic call-outs and A&E admissions / re-admissions, yielding an estimated saving of £392,288 per year.
The dementia challenge cannot be met by single specific care and support services working in isolation. Housing staff working in general needs accommodation can help to increase the rate of diagnosis and referral / signposting to support packages.
Riverside Housing Association runs a health check service for older tenants called LiveTime. The LiveTime service has helped people receive a diagnosis of dementia through contact with their families, GPs and social services. Similarly, the Accord Group has worked with local partners including Age UK Walsall to establish an information and advice service with dementia advisers, plus a dementia cafe for local people to access information on diagnosis and the available support.
The National Housing Federation has set up a Dementia and Housing Working Group with the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Swan, A. (2012). How to … use housing staff to diagnose and manage dementia. Guardian Professional: Housing Network [online], August 21st 2012.