Much has been said lately about the scourge of dementia in all its forms.And now,just a few days ago,Sir Terry Pratchett,author of the fantasy book series Discworld, and recently often considered a public face of dementia, passed away. He had been diagnosed in 2007 with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, an estimated 850,000 people currently suffer from dementia in the UK.The government is promising a new,long term strategy focused on boosting research,improving care and raising awareness of dementia. Not before time a deep searching light is to be shone on this growing mental disease which threatens to grow into a worldwide epidemic.
Yet there is hope for us all regardless of age.A chance of relief provided by better care, and the possible benefit of a longer lifespan. Although 60,000 deaths a year in the UK are directly attributable to dementia,delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of deaths directly attributable to this disease.This is where we can come in, in partnership with government, public bodies, and the several charitable organisations in the frontline fight.
The importance of awareness
Dementia is now out in the public domain.The fight is on.It was not so long ago,say in the last 5-10 years, there was little public awareness of dementia and most people had a very limited personal experience of the disease. It was a condition poorly known,often a cause of embarrassment to the sufferers’ families, such that they were often in denial of the existence of the disease, or unaware of it.This latter was partly due to the low number- even now Only 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive a diagnosis .Awareness levels are and will now continue to be raised. With awareness can be harnessed the drive for better dealing with the consequences of dementia.
Matching the solutions to the problems
Of concern when raising the public profile of this disease is a common held view that solutions can be found on a one-size fits all basis. But the forms of dementia are many and varied and no two people with dementia are the same.And so, a range of professional nursing skills training will have to be brought into dementia care in order to offer a comprehensive care service.
Currenty,media coverage often portrays a stereotype of sufferers ,of old, generally infirm looking, but agreeable,friendly and cheerful people needing often no more than gentle mental stimulation and a little guidance – like ‘post-it’ notes placed as reminders in strategic places around the home – to help them along.The reality for many, though, is that a once able and loving parent can become a person showing aggressive,apparently unreasonable, and fearful behaviour, making them unrecognisable as the person their loved ones once knew.This face of dementia is still little known beyond the walls of care homes, or the homes of carers. Many close family members live with poor support and suffer themselves in helpless silence.
For the full support of the public to be mobilised sufficiently to deal effectively with the upcoming challenges of dealing with dementia, the public face of this awful disease needs to be more widely drawn.
To find out more information,or if you wish to know how you can help support the frontline fight being waged go to Alzheimers Research UK.There is such a great need for investment in this research.
You can also go to the Alzheimers Society a key dementia charity offering valuable information for carers and others affected by this disease.
Finally, you can read an appreciation of the life of Sir Terry Pratchett who died in March 2015.