Putting dementia at the centre of council thinking

Published on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 10:14
Written by Kate Moore

There are 800,000 people across the UK living with dementia, and even more friends and family who are affected by the condition.

Many of these people are not living well. They are isolated and can't access the vital care and support they need and deserve. We know that everybody has a part to play in improving the lives of people with dementia.

Local councils play a vital role in shaping communities, and in May council elections will be taking place across the country. Ahead of the London local elections, Alzheimer's Society is launching the Dementia Manifesto for London. From this month we will be calling on local councils and communities across the capital to support the vision of a dementia-friendly city. Alzheimer's Society wants to ensure that every person with dementia can have choice and control over their life, get a timely diagnosis and appropriate post-diagnosis support, and receive the best quality care possible.

So why focus on London? Dementia is the biggest health and social care challenge facing our generation and London poses some unique challenges. It's fair to say that there's a postcode lottery of dementia care and support across the capital. Neighbouring boroughs can have wildly differing services, diagnosis levels and memory clinic waiting times.

Only 46 per cent of people with dementia in the UK currently have a diagnosis. Across London boroughs, this figure varies from 33 per cent to 63 per cent. People who have a diagnosis are often getting it too late. Assessment and diagnosis of dementia soon after someone has experienced symptoms is essential. It means people, and their carers, can access the care and support they need to live well for as long as possible. Working closely with Clinical Commissioning Groups, we see local authorities as a key player in helping to provide a more integrated package of care and support.

People with dementia tell us that it's difficult to get the support they need to remain independent. Their carers are often left to struggle alone. Lack of support at home means people with dementia are often admitted to hospital in an emergency. They stay there longer than necessary or go into a care home much earlier. Local authorities can help people with dementia to live well by providing quality and integrated health and care services, and this must be seen as a priority. Our wider goal is for this to be the case across the country, not just in London so that every person with dementia can receive the support they need to live well.

As part of our manifesto we are calling on local authorities to ensure that appropriate, comprehensive and person-centred post-diagnosis support is available to the people who need it in their boroughs. Priority must be given to commissioning support services that focus on ensuring people with dementia and their carers can access personally tailored information plus practical and emotional support. Access to peer support services and activities, such as support groups and dementia cafes, should also be provided.

As a Londoner, I know that this city is one of the finest in the world, and it's vital that people living with dementia should also still be able to enjoy all the capital has to offer. Many people with dementia have reported feeling trapped in their own homes and let down by their communities, with one in three only getting out once a week and one in 10 only managing this once a month. This is simply unacceptable.

Last year the Pan-London Dementia Action Alliance was formed to address the isolation that many people living with dementia can feel. The Alliance is formed by a collection of organisations, businesses and individuals who are committed to improving the lives of people with dementia in London, but more needs to be done.

With action from London boroughs now, everyone with dementia in the future can have quality of life.

Alzheimer's Society launched the Dementia Manifesto for London on Monday 10th March. Click here to find out how you can support the manifesto.

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