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'I feel so proud to have helped thousands of families', says Admiral Nurse

24-Jul-17
Article By: Melissa McAlees

Admiral Nurses are specialist dementia nurses who give expert practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia.

Credit: Susan Ashcroft-Simpson/Dementia UK Susan Ashcroft-Simpson, from the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, has revealed what being an Admiral Nurse means to her.

When did you become an Admiral Nurse?

I’ve been an Admiral Nurse for 16 years and started up the service in Manchester. I’ve been in mental health nursing for 35 years and I still love to learn. Working in dementia care - there is always something new and challenging to face.

Why did you choose to be a specialist dementia nurse?

“I think the unique relationship that Admiral Nurses develop with family carers is truly a wonderful thing and something that carers frequently tell us is one of the best things about what we do. Carers of people with dementia are amazing and it’s great to be in a position to be able to help and support them.”

What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

“Admiral Nursing is hard work and it’s emotional work. I think the hardest and most challenging thing is to try and cope with a system that doesn’t always value carers enough.

“There is a constant need to help colleagues to understand where family carers are coming from, why they might struggle and to help them see the real impact that caring for someone with dementia might have on a family member. After all, carers don’t plan to become a carer, they don’t only care for the person with dementia, they may have other caring responsibilities, other stressful areas of their life and sometimes it can all become overwhelming.”

What do you find most rewarding?

“There are so many rewarding things about my job, I can’t single out one thing. Some of the most rewarding aspects are the ability to help set people off on the right path after diagnosis, to instil hope and confidence in people who may have no experience of caring and no experience of dementia. I love those moments when a family carer will tell me, during our conversation, that ‘it’s all slotting into place now’.

“We frequently receive feedback about how good it feels to talk with someone who really knows what it’s like, someone who is knowledgeable about dementia and understanding and accepting of the carer’s situation. Carers often tell us that they wouldn’t know where to turn or what to do if they didn’t have an Admiral Nurse. They value our relationship with them as we treat them as partners in care and as our equals.”

How do you support the families of people living with dementia?

“I enjoy the support I can offer people with dementia who are approaching the end of their life - to be able to help, prepare and support families for this time can be difficult and emotional but it is worth the time we put into it. We can help contribute to a death that is as dignified, personal and comfortable as it can be.

What qualities does a person need to be an Admiral Nurse?

“Admiral Nurse support is invaluable. Families need someone with compassion and understanding, who can acknowledge the needs and complexities of each individual involved.

“Most family carers need help to understand dementia, they need to understand how the person changes in their emotional ability and cognitive functions and how changes in behaviour are linked to the dementia. I find one of the most valuable tools is to help the carer understand what it might be like to live with dementia, which helps them accept and understand that the person with dementia can’t help what is happening.

How do you feel about your job?

“Admiral Nursing is one of those rare jobs where you can also support people after the death of their loved one to build a new life and to support families left behind to cope with their grief.

“I feel proud to have helped thousands of families in Manchester and proud to be part of a national service where everyone has the same shared values and beliefs.

“Admiral Nursing is unique, the nurses and Dementia UK have shared passions and shared goals, which are simply to make the lives of family carers easier and, in turn, improving care for the person with dementia too.”

For more information on Admiral Nurses, go to: www.dementiauk.org

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