Postponing the inevitable

Posted on April 9th, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 3 comments

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

In expressing their pleasure at being allocated an extra £40m in funding, Dementia Research UK makes the startling claim that dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK.

Well it startled me. On about two-thirds of the death certificates issued for people with dementia who have died, the cause of death is ascribed as pneumonia so what we have here is the conundrum of causality and co-morbidity that commonly confronts doctors. I think that the most that can be said is that dementia is an increasingly common condition contributing to mortality.

But hey, massaged facts and grant funding are the best of bedfellows. The extra £40m is certainly good news for Dementia Research UK, and for all of us; I think everyone is personally disturbed by the thought of developing dementia. Dementia Research UK chief executive Hilary Evans underlined this when she said the cash had “a crucial role to play if we are to create a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.” And yet we are told not to talk about ‘people suffering from dementia’ – we have to say they simply live with it – and as I’ve said before, if people aren’t suffering, why the desperation to find a cure?

But suppose our 21st Century knowhow allows us to cure cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Parkinsons, stroke, dementia and all the other scourges of old age. What’s left to die of? Dyslexia?

Many are starting to think that advances in medicine have gone beyond the point of sustainability. By all means known to medicine let us try to give everyone a long, enjoyable and productive life, but let us also accept the reality that old age will debilitate us, physically and mentally, and that sometimes, money would be better spent on a properly-funded social care infrastructure and workforce, rather than throwing endless wads of cash at finding ways to postpone the inevitable.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

3 responses to “Postponing the inevitable”

  1. Simon Hooper says:

    So rare to hear the herd of elephants in the room discussed so forthrightly; cure, consequences, costs. If as you suggest delaying the inevitable could be argued as being a poor return on investment for tax payers money, the investment of time and energy by carers and care circle in making end of life as painless, enjoyable and as memorable as possible is not a waste of family money. Ways to improve quality of life and wellbeing using new tech paid for by the family, but in a manner that actually saves them, and Government, money by maintaining cost effective care at home (such as at are surely a straightforward strategy. The balance of expenditure between cure and care should surely therefore be tipped towards care not cure, for the benefit of the person cared for, and critically also for the carers and the family.

  2. Bob Ferguson says:

    But isn’t “curing” an integral part of “caring”? Anyway, who precisely are the “many” who are so opposed to advances in medicine? Do they believe that life and death priorities should be decided by figures on the national balance sheet – based on knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing? Would they please identify themselves?

    Are not the terms “long”, “enjoyable” and “productive” essentially subjective? Just as there will be some who rage against the dying of the light there will be others who would happily shuffle off life’s mortal coil – provided they had ability to decide the timing for themselves, of course.

    Unfortunately, unless our legislators can be persuaded that we humans should have parity with our much-loved pets, it looks like we may have to rely on the bean counters to decide when enough is enough.

  3. £40m is fine, but a drop in the ocean compared to the amounts going into cancer research – and starting from a much lower base as well.

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