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How I helped… a dementia patient

In a new series, three pharmacists explain how their skills helped them provide essential care

Sally Arniston

Barnton Pharmacy and Travel Clinic, Edinburgh

We have done a lot of work to promote ourselves as a dementia-friendly pharmacy.

We had one case where a daughter was very worried about her mum, who has dementia but was a lot more confused than usual. It was a Saturday, so the GP was closed and she came to see us.

From what she was describing, we suspected a urinary tract infection, so we spoke to the out-of-hours doctor, who prescribed a course of antibiotic treatment.

Older patients with acute confusion often end up being admitted, and are more likely to end up in a nursing home. We have a large elderly population, and we have trained our staff to think about such diagnoses.

In this case, the patient returned to normal quite quickly. We were able to avoid the downward spiral that happens when a patient forgets to drink and gets dehydrated.

When you ask dementia patients what they want, the most important thing to them is to remain at home.

I think lots of community pharmacists are missing a trick with dementia. There are only four drugs to treat it, and they don’t do a great job, so the condition is managed through social care.

The pharmacy is a key place in the community to offer signposting and support, and it can be massively helpful to patients and their carers. The pharmacy needs to be the stone that creates a ripple in a dementia-friendly community.


Mona Mohamed

Rowlands Pharmacy, Colne

We all became “Dementia Friends” as part of Rowlands’ dementia strategy, and it is something we are quite proud of.

Generally, we try to be more understanding, because we know how stressful it is to get a diagnosis of dementia – for the patient and their family.

We are seeing younger and younger patients with dementia, and when it hits someone young it can be earth-shattering.

Recently, we had the opportunity to help the wife of a man in his early 40s who had been diagnosed with dementia. She came in to pick up his prescriptions. We asked how she was coping, and she told us they were both struggling and that she was feeling overwhelmed.

We have a lot of resources in the pharmacy, and we also have close links with support services. We were able to provide advice and signpost her to Dementia UK, as well as the Alzheimer’s Society and the memory service at the doctor’s.

I also spent some time explaining about dementia, which I was able to do because of the training we were given.

She had some specific questions about the condition and the effects of the medication, so we downloaded some information from and I spent about 30 minutes talking through her concerns.

She was surprised that we were able to provide so much support for her, and she seemed reassured that, even though her husband had been diagnosed at an early age, they would be able to live the normal life of a couple in their 40s.

I hope she valued our help and knows where to come if she needs more advice. From a professional point of view, it makes the job more fulfilling – we are not here just for prescriptions.


Carl Stokes

McGill Pharmacy, Doncaster

We had a gentleman come to visit us for advice about a skin infection. There was nothing I could do, but I spoke to his GP and got him a prescription for Fucidin cream [fusidic acid] within a couple of hours.

He started to open up about his wife, who had been diagnosed with dementia four years ago. They had carers visiting twice a week, but he was finding it all too much, and on top of it all she was refusing to take her tablets.

With his permission, I called his GP and arranged for them to get more regular visits from the carers. I also visited him and his wife to discuss the medicines she was taking. Working with the surgery, we switched his wife to liquid versions of her medicines, and I got them a tablet crusher for the medicines we couldn’t switch. It is such a simple thing, but it made a big difference to them.

They had been using a different pharmacy previously and had problems with deliveries, which we synchronised and made more regular. He has said these simple measures have made his life so much easier, because he was spending a lot of time worrying about his wife’s medication. Now he knows it is going to be there and that she will take it.

All this started because he had come to see us about a skin infection, which probably started because he was so run down from caring for his wife. Carers are so often neglected.

The days when the pharmacist was responsible for putting tablets into boxes are over. My job now is to go into the community to find these people who are vulnerable and help them.


How do you help your patients with dementia?

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Nalin Shah, Community pharmacist

these  care episodes  just go to show how the majority of  community pharmacists are quietly getting on and helping invisibly above and beyond their duty.

in most cases they are approachable, can give practical help and are a huge asset in joined up health care.

not recognised enough in these times of talks about cuts . we are all proud of you .


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