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In this latest article focused on dementia services, Caregiver-in-Chief, Barbara Stephens talks about the vital contribution that Admiral Nurses can make to supporting people living with dementia and their families at times times of particular stress and challenge. 

Admiral Nurses are qualified nurses specialising in dementia. Their work is concentrated on supporting families, recognising that dementia has an impact on the whole family and affects the social networks of the person with the diagnosis. Admiral Nurses take into account the unique perspective of each person touched by dementia understanding that relationships are challenged and can change. They help to resolve conflicts in families and support decision-making at times of stress and potential crisis.

Dementia is complex. It is a condition that has many types and its effect will be different for every person with a diagnosis. The pattern of symptoms will vary. The trajectory will be slow for some people, more rapid for others. A person’s readiness and ability to adapt to living with dementia, their personality, mental health, physical well-being and life history will all have an influence on their experience of dementia.

Families are complex too. The nature of pre-dementia relationships affect how families adjust to the diagnosis, and the dynamics within families inevitably change over time.  Admiral Nurses work with people with dementia and their carers during stressful periods, when changes are occurring and through transitions, helping family carers to recognise their own needs and to take care of their own physical and mental health as well as those of the person who is the focus of their care.

Some of the ways that Admiral Nurses can help:

If communication within families gets difficult, Admiral Nurses can suggest techniques and equip family carers with skills to help everyone to stay connected and working together

If someone with dementia is showing signs of fear or distress, Admiral Nurses will work with the family to discover the best ways to prevent or manage the situation

If additional care and support is needed for the person with dementia, Admiral Nurses will explore with the family what options are available with the aim of finding the best-suited solution for everyone involved

Crucially, too, Admiral Nurses offer emotional support. They will take time to listen to the carer’s concerns and explore every aspect of the situation, ensuring that they truly understand the carer’s perspective and their feelings. They will give advice and information based on robust evidence and recognised best practice.

Admiral Nurses work in community settings, care homes and hospitals, supporting people with dementia to access the services they need, working in partnership with other organisations and service providers, to create a joined-up approach.

The model of service provision varies in different areas, depending on the way Admiral Nurses have been commissioned. In some areas, Admiral Nurses sit within NHS Older People’s Mental Health Services and are part of the memory service; in other areas, they may operate within primary care. Some Admiral Nurses work in hospitals and some are attached to hospices. Some care companies employ Admiral Nurses, their role is to develop and provide education for the front-line care workforce, and to offer advice and support for relatives of residents.

The parent organisation for Admiral Nurses is the charity Dementia UK. The first Admiral Nurse service was piloted in London in 1990 and the evaluation carried out by University College London demonstrated that the model of support brought about very positive outcomes for family carers. The charity was formed soon after to pioneer Admiral Nurses and spearhead the roll-out. There are now more than 200 Admiral Nurses working in localities throughout the UK.

Dementia UK also offers a helpline: the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline operates 7 days per week, from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 5pm during the weekend. Call on 0800 888 6678 or send an email to helpline@dementiauk.org.

To find out is there is an Admiral Nurse in your area, check Dementia UK’s map of services: https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/dementia-helpline-alzheimers-helpline/