A Duns man has been appointed to a newly created post designed to further the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia in the Borders.
Peter Lerpiniere is set to fill the role of Alzheimer Scotland’s dementia nurse consultant.
Alzheimer Scotland has been funding ‘dementia nurses’ around Scotland with a remit to improve the care of people with dementia, in hospital particularly, and Peter has over 20 years of working in the dementia field,
In Peter’s experience, he says: “People with dementia are more likely to keep well if they are in familiar places with familiar faces which is a key reason to support services in local areas, and this is where Alzheimer Scotland come into their own.”
He points out that Alzheimer Scotland is not only a successful campaigning organisation but also a service organisation for local people.
“On the one hand Alzheimer Scotland work nationally with the Scottish Government to influence national policy and locally with NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council as a key local organisation helping with Borders dementia service planning.
“But on the other hand Alzheimer Scotland runs and supports services at a local community level, here and elsewhere. Their network of carer groups are well established and the Borders local office for Alzheimer Scotland is within the NHS resource centre in Kelso Hospital.”
Peter’s new role will have strategic influence and bridge a gap between care delivery and the world of research and development supported by Queen Margaret University.
In the Borders there are currently nearly 2,200 people living with a diagnosis of dementia.
About 80 of those are people under the age of 65, so it’s not simply an “old person’s” disease (in fact a recent diagnosis was of someone under 30).
“We have an aging population,” says Peter, “and that means that more people are finding themselves in hospital environments.
“Our aim is to make those environments easier to navigate.”
He explains that this can start with very simple things, such as more obvious signage for toilets.
“Things like that can make a real difference to people, who are suffering from a loss of facilities,” Peter said.
“Just the simple fact that a patient doesn’t have to ask every time where the toilet is, contributes to a feeling of greater independence.”
This attitude to a terrible condition is similar to that Peter brought to work he previously did in partnership with Berwickshire Housing Association, where attempts were made to design a ‘dementia friendly’ flat.
Innovations included clear kitchen cupboards so that, again, people struggling with memory loss would be able to find things easier and feel more independent.
And he stresses that this is not a condition experienced alone.
“It’s not just the patients themselves, but their carers too, and nurses, who go through this together,” he said.
“I’m optimistic about the future but I don’t underestimate the situation. I know it won’t be easy.”