DEMENTIA is being put under the spotlight at the Great Western Hospital this month in a bid to increase early diagnosis rates.

It comes after a national campaign was launched by the Department of Health with support from the Alzheimer’s Society.

The A Day to Remember campaign will encourage people to have that first ‘difficult conversation’ with a friend or family member when they spot the signs and symptoms of dementia, and encourage them to visit their GP.

At the GWH, work is being carried out to improve the diagnosis of dementia, care for patients with a diagnosis and the support available to sufferers.

This week, an appeal has been launched for more staff to become Dementia Champions who will become experts on the syndrome and be able to offer advice and support to others.

They do not need to have a medical background and can be porters, housekeepers, managers, consultants or nurses.

Wendy Johnson, senior sister for coronary care and dementia champion, said: “Early indications show that staff are interested in coming on board and we have been really encouraged by the response so far.

“They don’t have to have a medical background, just an interest in making a difference – and that is key for us.”

Changes have also been made on wards at the GWH to improve the care for patients with dementia. This includes discreet systems to make sure all staff are aware which patients have dementia and may need special support, as well as adaptations to bathrooms to make them more accessible and easy to use.

Wendy said: “Often people with dementia can have problems with height or seeing things properly – they may see a step when there isn't actually a step there, so we have made adaptations to reduce the risk of falls.

“We have also installed more clocks on wards as dementia patients often have difficulty in distinguishing between day and night.”

It is estimated that 8,656 people are living with dementia across Swindon and Wiltshire, but less than half of these have received a diagnosis. By 2021, the number is expected to have increased by 40 per cent, to more than 12,000 people.

“For us, early indication is key,” said Wendy. “From October 1, we will also be asking all patients over the age of 75 whether they have experienced any forgetfulness and if they have, we will be referring them on.”