How can nurses help with dementia care?

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a heavy burden. But you might be able to get some much-needed help from a community nurse. Find out all the essential information about community nursing and how it could benefit you and the person you're caring for

In a nutshell

Community nursing can be a vital resource for people with dementia and their carers. Being able to call upon the expertise of a health care professional who is medically qualified, may also have experience of dementia, and is willing to support you in your own home, is often a huge help.

Here's three types of community nurse you might meet on the dementia journey.

1. Community mental health nurse

Also known as community psychiatric nurse (CPN) a community mental health nurse looks after and supports people with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, psychotic illnesses and dementia. The first time she visits you she might carry out an assessment to find out the kind of problems you're having and what she can do to help. For example, she can suggest practical ways to help with memory problems such as assistive technology and dementia clocks. She may visit you at home (or you can sometimes see her at your GP's surgery). She might be able to refer you for a more detailed memory assessment and may even be able to check that you're receiving all the benefits you're entitled to.

2. Community nurse

Also known as a district nurse, she provides care to people just out of hospital or those who are housebound. If your loved one is recovering from an operation, an accident or an illness which required medical intervention you will probably get a few visits from a community nurse. Her job is to carry out general practical nursing tasks such as changing bandages, dressing wounds, checking insulin levels of people with diabetes, making sure medication is effective and properly managed and referring patients on to other services they may need such as physiotherapy or social services.

3. Specialist dementia nurse

Some parts of the UK now have their own Community Dementia Nurse (CDN) based in GP surgeries, who are there to help you deal with specific dementia-related issues. If you're lucky enough to have a CDN (ask at your local surgery) make the most of her – the combination of medical and practical knowledge she has could be invaluable. CDNs are still quite few in number, though that is likely to change as the need for them rises.

You may be able to access an Admiral Nurse based in your area. Admiral nurses are specialist dementia nurses who visit you at home and provide practical and emotional support to the person you're caring for and to you. They are skilled enough to take on quite complex cases and to help you make tough decisions, such as moving a loved one into a care home, or dealing with behaviours and feelings you might find it difficult to discuss with anyone else.

How to get a visit from a community nurse

Ask at your GP’s surgery. You may be able to contact a community nurse directly or you may have to make an appointment to see a GP who will then refer you.

Good to know

Admiral Nurses aim to help everyone who needs them. They are based throughout the UK and also have a helpline, click here for more information or call 08452579406 for help now.