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Dementia What Do They Know?

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In 2015, Dementia overtook heart disease and stroke as the UK’s biggest cause of death even bigger than different cancers and the current Coronavirus, yes, I have washed my hands with soap, and I have managed to find some anti-bacterial gel.

Countless ads and information in the media always highlight these other causes of death but where does Dementia stand, I ask?

I applaud the British Heart Foundation for their latest national television with a young boy using a swear jar collection for a cure for his grandad.

Having been a Care Manager and now Chair for the Care Managers’ Forum, I wonder how much the public know about Dementia considering this statistic.

Is it because Dementia is seen as a degenerative condition that affects the elderly, the reason why not much attention is given to it? Take Coronavirus, which is at the front of everyone’s mind now. The number of column inches this virus has been given is unparalleled, but the truth is, it will eventually be under control and those column inches will become tomorrow’s fish and chip wrap. Given Dementia will continue to be on the up, it is unfortunate the awareness of this incurable condition will not increase at the same rate.  Surely there is a clear unbalance of concern here.

So, for the record Dementia describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and there are over 42,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK.

The total cost of care for people with dementia in the UK is £34.7billion. This is set to rise sharply over the next two decades, to £94.1billion by 2040. However, two thirds of the cost of dementia is paid by people with dementia and their families. Unpaid carers supporting someone with dementia save the UK economy £13.9 billion a year.

People with dementia are living longer lives in the community, without adequate support for their declining physical and psychological needs, the majority of these individuals end up in a Care home.

If you already knew all of this how would you cope with supporting someone with Dementia?

A recent experience with a lovely lady who had tried to cope with her husband’s dementia for the last year, ended up having to put him in to care. She had struggled with his sudden change in his behaviour and eventually feared for her own physical safety.  She didn’t know what to do especially when he became aggressive. Within 3 months of her husband being at the care home he was calm. However, when he was aggressive, the home would use doll therapy. This was because in the 1960’s he would go out to work and he never got to hold his children as babies. Holding the doll reminded him of this time when he was a young father and immediately helped to calm him down. His wife felt worthless and how she had failed her husband, if only she would have known this, he could have stayed at home with her for longer.

As a Care professional, I see the struggle families go through daily, feeling helpless and struggling to find the answers. If families have dementia training, look at different therapies and have a person-centred relationship outlook, this will help improve the quality of life for people with dementia which is crucial to them and their families’ overall wellbeing.”

My biggest GRIPE is that as a society we are failing in this area. All Carers/ health assistants require yearly mandatory training for dementia yet for all those unpaid carers this isn’t the case. Just from my experience’s families are missing out and this should be a standard practice in the community. How else will we be able to deal with the biggest cause of death in UK.

Dudley Sawyerr

Chair for London Care and Support Forum

Director for People Care Services

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