CARE for older people in Worcestershire with dementia is being overhauled.

Representatives from Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust – the organisation providing the majority of mental health and community care in the county – gave a presentation on how supported for people with the condition and their cares can be improved at a meeting of Worcestershire County Council’s Health, Overview and Scrutiny committee this week.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, March 3 committee chairman Cllr Andy Roberts said the continued pressures faced by the county’s acute hospitals had meant attention had been diverted away from mental health and it was important this balance was redressed.

The trust’s clinical director for older adult mental health Dr Bernie Coope said about 8,500 people in Worcestershire – 3.4 per cent of the entire population – are currently living with dementia, about half of whom are older than 85 and 450 of whom are younger than 65.

“Every year in Worcestershire the number of people in Worcestershire with dementia goes up by a little over three per cent,” he said.

“The conditions that lead to dementia are incurable. Someone with dementia will die with dementia.

“But is a very difficult to know if dementia is the cause of their death. It’s estimated about half of people who die with dementia die as a result of it.

“For those people left behind the feeling of grief may be more profound.”

Although Dr Coope called for more education for health workers on how to treat and support people with dementia, he said budget pressures made it difficult to provide effective care.

“When I was at medical school I spent only three days on dementia training,” he said.

“But it costs more to the economy that stroke and cancer combined.

“It’s the most important issue this county faces.

“If you ask people what matters to them and what concerns they would rather not get, for those of us over 50 we fear dementia more than cancer.

“This is not a trivial thing.”

Committee member for Redditch Borough Council Cllr Pat Witherspoon said it was particularly important to increase the amount of people with dementia who are diagnosed early.

“One thing that occurs to me time and time and time again is how important it is to get an early diagnosis,” she said.

“How far away are we in getting a standardised test for everybody over 60?”

But committee member for Worcestershire County Council Cllr Graham Vickery said low pay for care workers made the situation worse.

“Care workers are difficult to recruit and retain because they could earn more working at Morrisons,” he said. “We need to do something about this.”

Women make up about two thirds of people with dementia, but Dr Coope said this was generally thought to be by virtue of the fact that men generally do not live as long.

“Dementia is a very serious life changing condition but it is possible to live well with it,” he said.

Services being developed across the county include more accommodation and home-based care as well as increased support for carers and family members.