Make a new friend this Dementia Awareness week

This dementia awareness week, 14-20 May, we are urging as many optometrists as possible to become a Dementia Friend and ensure their practice is dementia friendly.

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Author: Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MCOptom, Clinical Adviser 
Date: 10 May 2017

There are currently thought to be around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, predicted to reach over one million by 2025, but I recently learnt that dementia does not just affect older people; over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK also have dementia. I discovered this recently while completing an online training course about dementia. Designed by the Alzheimer’s Society to improve people’s understanding of dementia it shares some simple practical ways that everyone can help people with dementia feel better understood and cared for. This programme is run primarily by the Alzheimer’s Society in partnership with various Government bodies across the UK sectors. The simple online training provides a rich source of skills for treating and communicating with people who have dementia. The training has levels of competence; from the basic Dementia Friend level to Dementia Champions, and there is training for making dementia-friendly organisations. Face-to-face sessions or engaging with a video followed by a self-audit can lead to anyone becoming a Dementia Friend. 

With one in six people affected by dementia, that’s a couple sight tests each day where a person could benefit from a little extra care and understanding.

The free online course took about 25 minutes to complete, and gave a candid insight into what it feels like to be affected by dementia and I learnt some simple steps that has changed the way I approach examining a person with dementia. In addition, within a couple of days, I received an information booklet and badge. Anyone can complete the course; so useful I have encouraged the rest of the team whom I work with in practice to have a look, and those who have feel much more confident in helping those affected.   It is worth noting how pharmacies have embraced this training with 80% of pharmacists’ in England having completed it and many pharmacies now ensuring they have a member of staff to act as a dementia champion. In addition the number of optical practices embracing the training is steadily growing, but as a profession we have a way to go.

With one in six people affected by dementia, that’s a couple sight tests each day where a person could benefit from a little extra care and understanding. In addition to becoming a Dementia Friend, the College has some great resources to help, with an online training video, an essential reading and learning list and some top eye examination tips.

The College’s recent research found that the prevalence of visual impairment in those with dementia is generally higher than for the overall population, indicating that the lives of many people with dementia could be improved by regular sight tests and taking appropriate action. The collaborative  research, entitled the Prevalence of Visual Impairment in People with Dementia (PrOVIDe), was led by the College of Optometrists. Evidence from the PrOVIDe study shows effective eye examinations are possible in most patients with dementia. Optometrists are therefore in a good position to make a positive difference to the lives of people with dementia by taking the appropriate steps to correcting their visual impairment. Following on from the College’s recent parliamentary launch The College is now working with the Dementia Research Centre Team at UCL to explore which vision tests work best for people living with dementia.

This dementia awareness week, 14-20 May, we are urging as many optometrists as possible to complete the Dementia Friend training and look at our top-tips. It is free and can take as little as 25 minutes. Why don’t you make a new friend and unite against dementia? It will help to expand confidence when helping people with dementia, for both you and the whole practice team and also serve to raise awareness of the link between visual impairment and dementia. Most importantly it will help you to turn understanding into action and ensure those affected by dementia receive the eye care that everybody deserves. 

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom
Clinical Adviser, The College of Optometrists

Daniel graduated from Anglia Ruskin University, where he won the Haag Strait prize for best dissertation. Before joining the College, he was Managing Director of an independent practice in Cambridge and a visiting clinician at Anglia Ruskin University. He has also worked as a senior glaucoma optometrist with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, with Newmedica across East Anglia and as a diabetic retinopathy screening optometrist. Daniel was a member of Cambridgeshire LOC from 2007 to 2015 and a member of the College of Optometrists’ Council from 2009 to 2014, representing its Eastern region.  

He is Clinical Adviser to the College of Optometrists for four days each week, dividing the remainder of his time between primary care practice and glaucoma community clinics. Daniel is a passionate advocate of the profession of optometry, committed to supporting all members of the profession and ensuring patient care is always at the heart of optometry. He was awarded Fellowship by Portfolio in December 2018.


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