With the number of dementia suffers increasing all the time, CATHERINE MUSGROVE spoke to a family who have benefited from a special support service.
“We can’t thank our Admiral Nurse enough”, said Heather Bee, whose father Bill Bee, 84, has had vascular dementia for eight years.
Heather, 52, from Lea, Preston, said: “My dad became very ill about three years ago and somewhere in all of the support we were offered we were put in touch with the Royal British Legion Admiral Nursing Service based at Ribbleton Hall. Our nurse then was absolutely fantastic, but then we stopped needing the help and lost his number.”
In recent years, Heather said her father’s behaviour has changed significantly, with him becoming argumentative and awkward.
He also suffers great anxiety and will not leave his wife Irene’s side, becoming very fretful if she isn’t with him.
Heather contacted the RBL again a year ago as she knew her mum was struggling to cope, and because Bill had served in the Army for three years while completing his national service, he qualified for their Admiral Nursing Service, which provides specialist mental health nurses.
Heather said: “At the beginning, it was about gaining mum’s confidence.
“Our nurse, Zoe Scowcroft, visits every week and offers advice such as telling us about the Care and Repair service where all the workers in companies are checked so that they don’t rip old people off.
“She has arranged for us to get a rail put up outside, has got in touch with the audiology department at the hospital for hearing aids and explained the process to dad, and got the doctor to come round to the house to give him a cortisol injection for a bad knee. Basically, they support you with anything.
“It’s nice to know they’re there and that they know what is out there for dad.
“They’re also there for the family, for instance Zoe’s also there for me to sound off, cry, whatever.”
Mr Bee has been in hospital for the past five weeks, but still receives regular visits from his Admiral Nurse, and she keeps in contact with Irene and Heather via phone, text and email.
On a recent visit, Zoe was able to put Irene’s mind at ease over the options available on discharge from hospital.
Heather added: “They don’t just disappear. Zoe has been a fantastic support to my mum and me as dad has deteriorated.
“I wish that more people knew about them, because more and more are being affected by dementia.
“The hospital staff on Ward 20 have also been really good, and I’d like to thank them for all their help.”
Zoe said: “Our work varies from person to person. It ranges from offering a bit of preliminary advice to intensive work with the family.
“In Bill’s case, he has been in hospital recently, so I have been intensely involved.
“I visit him on a weekly basis and I keep in contact in between with both Irene and Heather to make sure they’re all right.
“It’s ongoing support whenever they need it.”
Zoe added: “It’s about a person living well and making sure that all of their physical and mental health needs are met.
“We often work with the family to help them continue communicating with their loved one, and to help them understand changes in behaviour.
“We want to promote positive approaches to working with dementia, meeting all the challenges the family come across on the dementia journey.
“What is quite unique to us is that we have time to spend with a patient and their carers, we’re not straight in and out.
“You will always get the same Admiral Nurse, and although it can take months for someone to warm to a nurse and for us to gain their trust, we have the time to do it.”
She added: “Our help is available to anyone who has been in the armed forces, or has done National Service.
“Most people don’t realise they qualify through their National Service, but that’s what most of my patients did.”
The Royal British Legion Admiral Nurse Service in Lancashire offers support and advice to carers and families of those living with dementia within the Armed Forces community.
For more information, please contact 0808 802 8080 or visit www.britishlegion.org.uk.