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Rowcroft Hospice drives the agenda for enhanced dementia and palliative care support in Devon following its groundbreaking Dementia and Palliative Care Conference

Rowcroft Hospice has successfully hosted the UK Dementia and Palliative Care Conference, the first of its kind in the South West. Sponsored by Friends Helping at Home and in partnership with The Ness Care Group and The Filo Project, the day brought together local, national and international leaders with over 100 delegates at the Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre on Tuesday 26 March.

 

Throughout the day, experts and delegates shared invaluable insights and expertise, emphasising the vital role of palliative care in enhancing the quality of life for those living with dementia. With dementia being the leading cause of death in the UK, Rowcroft Hospice recognises its profound impact on the local community. Inspired by the day’s success, the charity aims to help drive the dementia agenda for Devon.

 

Retired GP of 40 years Guy Bradley-Smith opened the conference with a personal testimony. Having been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2021, he described how little NHS support was available to him and his wife and how they seemed to “fall between the cracks” of the healthcare system.

 

“With losing my independence, I also lost the will to live,” said Guy. “I felt I had no purpose and equally no motivation to fight for help. The advice to us has been – you have to learn to live with dementia. True but it’s a very tough lesson to learn.”

 

Guy expressed his hope that the conference would help to shine a spotlight on the need to provide better support to those living with dementia:

 

“In this room, there is a huge amount of experience and expertise. For those of us living with dementia, there must be better ways to help us live with it, and perhaps you have a piece of that puzzle that could be shared today. When people with dementia have lost so much, we need to find them, we need to hold them, and we need to support them. I hope that today brings lots of opportunities to explore this.”

 

Key highlights from the day included Eloy van Hal, the Senior Advisor and Founder of The Hogeweyk®, emphasising the impact of the right environment for dementia care, drawing from his extensive experience as the founder of The Hogeweyk® Dementia Village. He shed light on the profound impact that a thoughtfully designed environment can have on the wellbeing and quality of life for individuals living with dementia.

 

Dr Hannah Bradwell, Digital Health Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Technology at the University of Plymouth, delved into the latest innovations in technology for dementia care research, offering a glimpse into the transformative potential of digital health solutions. She shared the groundbreaking role of technology for fostering greater independence and dignity for those affected by the condition.

 

Sue Egersdorff, founder at Ready Generations, led a compelling discussion about the potential of intergenerational practice as a transformative approach in dementia care. Her charity is dedicated to promoting connections across generations and Sue brought a unique perspective to the conference. Her presentation highlighted the profound benefits of intergenerational care, which facilitates meaningful exchanges and mutual support between older adults and younger generations.

 

Each presenter brought unique perspectives and expertise to the conference, igniting discussions on practical strategies for improving the lives of individuals affected by dementia.

 

Throughout the conference, attendees were immersed in thought-provoking presentations and interactive sessions, where they had the opportunity to exchange ideas, share best practices, and collaborate on solutions to the challenges facing dementia care today.

 

Rowcroft Hospice Chief Executive Officer Mark Hawkins reflected on the success of the event at highlighting the need for additional support:

 

“What a fantastic day it’s been, hearing from local, national and international speakers bridging the world of dementia and palliative care and helping to ensure we continue to deliver the right dementia support in Devon. It’s been a very emotive and inspiring day.

 

“We’ve raised awareness of the importance of a cohesive approach to dementia care at the end of life, with solutions that focus on each person’s individual needs. Rowcroft Hospice is committed to making every day the best day possible for those with life-limiting illness, and with a deeper understanding of dementia we can ensure we can continue to deliver this.

 

“We also want to use the outputs and learnings from the day to work with our health and social care colleagues to help craft a dementia strategy for Devon since there isn’t one, and there is a desperate need for one which delivers the support Guy Bradley-Smith so eloquently portrayed.”

 

Norrms McNamara, a resident of Torbay who was diagnosed with dementia at just 50 years of age and founded The Purple Angel dementia awareness campaign, attended the event and described the success of the day:

 

“The conference itself was a huge hit in my eyes and I met some of the most amazing people – many of whom I have only ever met over the keyboard so it was great to shake their hands in real life.”

 

He now wants to keep the conversation moving forward and to start planning for a future of improved dementia care for the community of Devon.

 

Sally Scott-Bryant, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Rowcroft Hospice, expressed immense pride in the speakers for orchestrating a special, diverse, and thought- provoking day and reflected on the aims of the event:

 

“It’s crucial to continuously push the boundaries in dementia thinking. We’re immensely proud of our strategic aims, born from thorough analysis and best practice thinking, reflected in the Lavender Square complex. Our priority now is to ensure we push for a dementia strategy for the South West.”

 

Rowcroft concluded the day by sharing its future plans for the development of Lavender Square – a pioneering dementia and complex nursing care home. Opening for Christmas 2026 (subject to commissioning with health and social care colleagues), it promises innovation and nurturing in the form of a 60-bed specialist dementia and complex nursing home at the hospice’s site in Avenue Road, Torquay.

 

For more information about Lavender Square please visit www.lavendersquare.co.uk

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