A senior dementia nurse in Pembrokeshire has spoken of the importance of care planning for dementia patients, especially end-of-life care.

Marie Curie’s Angela Dowson, a senior nurse for the charity’s specialist dementia service in the county, helps provide support, information and advice to people living with all forms of dementia and their carers.

Marking Dementia Action Week, Ms Dowson has spoken of the challenges the service has faced during the pandemic and outlined her wish to see everybody across the UK have the opportunity to discuss end-of-life plans with loved ones and health professionals.

Around 42,000 people in Wales have a form of dementia, with one in twenty people over the age of 65, and one in five over the age of 80, affected.

Marie Curie is the UK’s leading end of life charity, providing expert care and support to thousands of families across Wales via hands on care and through its information, support and bereavement services.

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The dementia service in Pembrokeshire provides reassurance, advice and support, while Angela’s clinical role can determine what medical care and support the person with dementia needs at different stages of their end of life journey.

Speaking of the progress made over the last five years, Ms Dowson said: “The service has moved on so much in the time I’ve been in post.

“The very essence of it is giving advice, support and information to all involved in the care of a person with a diagnosis of dementia in the last year of life to prevent hospital admissions and to ensure ceilings of care, [while] liaising with other health and social care professionals. 

“The latter has been more challenging than what we've been used to during Covid.

“Initially they were all screaming out that they couldn’t visit, so there was a lot more liaising with multidisciplinary team professionals to ensure that the person with dementia and their carer is getting good quality, timely appropriate care even during the pandemic.”

The National Wales: Marie Curie senior nurse Angela DowsonMarie Curie senior nurse Angela Dowson

Forced to work remotely from home during the height of the crisis, the team provided over-the-phone support to patients.

However, once they were allowed to visit people in their homes again, they found patients at crisis point as their conditions had deteriorated and their needs changed.

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Services have also been impacted by day centres being closed, meaning early conversations about dementia have not been able to take place.

“We used to dip into the day centre to see people, because we’ve been having a lot of talks about dementia, it is a terminal illness, it is a palliative illness,” Ms Dowson continued.

“There is still a bit of stigma around Marie Curie and cancer, and I have to explain that this is a dementia specific service – and it’s right there on my uniform.

“For us, it’s about getting into groups, to see individuals and say ‘Hello, it’s nice to meet you, hopefully you won’t see us for a very long time, but we’re here if you need us’. 

“When they do then need us, they’re not frightened of Marie Curie, they're not frightened of me. They know about us, and hopefully know we are friendly and approachable.”

Speaking about her passion for the role, Angela says she’d love to oversee specialist dementia support for the charity across the UK.

“Just a few years ago, people didn't know half as much then about advanced care planning as they do now.

“My dream is to be overseeing and supporting dementia teams throughout the UK for Marie Curie.” 

Dementia Action Week runs from May 17 to May 23. You can support and learn more about what service Marie Curie provides by visiting the charity’s website.