Pharmacists are being encouraged to improve their understanding of Alzheimer’s ahead of Dementia Awareness Week in May.

With 850,000 people in the UK currently diagnosed with the condition, Numark has teamed up with Alzheimer’s Research UK to distribute resources to its members.

The pack includes 20 copies of an eight-page patient leaflet, 10 ‘postcards’ advertising the leading dementia charity’s health information resources and an A3 poster.

Hilary Cunningham, one of Numark’s information pharmacists, said: “As the number of people diagnosed with dementia increases there is a wider opportunity for pharmacists and their teams to provide professional healthcare support for these patients and their carers.

Dementia Awareness Week is 15-21 May, so this would be an ideal time for pharmacies to review their understanding of the symptoms and how they can make their pharmacy more ‘dementia friendly’.

“Pharmacists and their staff should be alert to regular customers who may start to show the early signs of dementia as early diagnosis is important to enable patients to get the right help and treatment.”

Hilary is also a registered Dementia Friend, through an initiative operated by Alzheimer’s Society that helps people to understand more about what it’s like to live with dementia.

“Advice or action that slows the progression of the condition or delays the need for patients to access residential or nursing care will generate significant savings for the NHS.

“Enhanced patient support increases job satisfaction for the pharmacy team and promotes the reputation of the pharmacy and the profession.”

[box type="shadow" align="alignleft" ]Tips for a ‘dementia friendly’ pharmacy

• Provide accurate, written advice about medication, including how often and how much to take, possible side effects and any action that can minimise them.

• Ensuring clinical knowledge of dementia treatments is accurate and up to date.

• Awareness of medication that could aggravate dementia. This includes treatments with anticholinergic actions such as antihistamines and antidepressants.

• Raise awareness and knowledge of dementia among the pharmacy team, including developing a staff commitment to being dementia friendly.

• Train counter staff in methods of communicating with patients with dementia.

• Develop customer service strategies to assist customers with dementia to avoid rushing them whilst being served.

• Remind all patients who drive that they must inform DVLA of their diagnosis.

• Availability of dementia resources such as leaflets within the pharmacy

• Assess your pharmacy to ensure it is easily accessible. This would include having clear signage, adequate lighting and uncluttered route from the door to the counter, clear layout, a quiet counter area and customer seating.

• Provide enhanced services such as MURs or CMS for people with dementia

• Effective transfer of information for patients who move into social care such as residential or nursing homes or into hospital.

• Be aware of local support services such as falls services, community mental health team, home care providers or community support groups to enable appropriate signposting.

• Providing medicines delivery services to patients where accessing the pharmacy would be difficult.

• Monitor collection of medication by dementia patients and contact the prescriber or nominated carer where medication [/box]