Tackling dementia

Published on Friday, 30 March 2012 10:42
Posted by Jeremy Hughes

Monday saw a sea-change in the way dementia is tackled in the UK. At the beginning of a momentous week, the UK Government announced a series of measures that will turn the tide on decades of neglect

There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK - yet research into the condition receives ten times less funding than cancer research. Until now. Last week David Cameron announced the government would double funding for research, boost diagnosis rates, work with businesses to improve dementia awareness and called for us all to radically shift the way we talk, think and act on dementia.

The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Dementia puts a huge strain on services provided by local and national government, and costs the UK taxpayer £20b each year.

Last week Alzheimer’s Society published Dementia 2012, our most comprehensive review of how well our country helps people with the condition, and the results reveal a silent, but potentially deadly problem on a national scale.

Sixty-one per cent of people with dementia told us they were struggling with feelings of loneliness, while 77 per cent reported anxiety or depression. Nearly two thirds do not feel like a part of their community, and almost half said their carer may not be getting the support they need.

While a boost in research funding will go a long way to improving the lives of people with dementia in the long term, there is plenty that people at all levels of government can do to help. By commissioning for quality, encouraging dementia training and awareness and supporting dementia friendly communities, we can all make a big difference.

People with dementia have to battle against stigma and lack of understanding from people in their everyday lives. This can lead to a lack of confidence that stops them from continuing with activities most of us take for granted. Things like shopping, getting on a bus or visiting the bank. Things like carrying on with their favourite hobbies. Things that make all of us feel part of the world around us.

Yet with just a little help, people with dementia can be supported to live their lives to the full. How? By people coming together to form Dementia Friendly Communities; villages, towns and cities that are geared up to tackle the condition. In each community, local authorities, private companies and individuals will come together to support people to live well with dementia. From local government councillors to bank managers; from bus drivers to hairdressers, everyone can play their part.

It sounds idealistic - but it is already happening. In Torbay, local businesses have been training staff about dementia to help improve awareness and understanding of the condition. And in Plymouth, a whole host of businesses have signed up for specialist talks and training to ensure their staff know how to work with people with dementia. We want all communities to take these steps and help take dementia out of the shadows.

If you want to help make your community dementia friendly, or to find out more about the condition, visit alzheimers.org.uk. Together, we can turn the tide on dementia.

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