AMBULANCE crews have been given specialist training to provide frontline support to people living with dementia.

Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust partnered with dementia communication specialist Empowered Conversations with the aim to understand the barriers patients living with dementia can experience and how to overcome them.

Dementia is considered one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare sector. The condition is most common at an older age, affecting a person’s ability to remember and understand everyday facts, such as names, dates and places. It also affects communication such as word finding and the ability to present rational ideas.

It is estimated that more than 42,000 people in Wales are living with the condition. The total UK figure is set to rise to one million by 2025.

Alison Johnstone, dementia programme manager for the Trust said: “Our staff are so often in the frontline when it comes to helping people living with dementia. We want to make sure they are trained and informed about the condition so that they have a good understanding of how to best support patients, families and carers.”

Empowered Conversations, developed by Salford social enterprise Six Degrees and the University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia, focuses on building a repertoire between a carer and person living with dementia by using non-threatening but engaging communication, which the person can respond to if they wish. It also teaches how to measure whether that communication has been effective.

Emma Smith, project manager for Empowered Conversations, said: “It was great to be able to deliver training to help frontline staff and other members of the team be better equipped to support people with dementia.

“Many of us worry about ‘saying the wrong thing' to someone with dementia, yet a friendly face or listening ear can make the world of difference; and sometimes conversations and connections do not have to be about words.”