Why dementia professionals must find solutions together
By Caring Times editor-in-chief Dr RICHARD HAWKINS
Over recent years, awareness of dementia has soared. More people than ever understand what the condition means and how it can manifest itself. Over one million people across the UK have become ‘Dementia Friends’, helping make communities better places for those living with the condition. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, called improving dementia care “a personal priority” and championed the cause at a global level.
However, there is still a huge amount to be done when it comes to improving care for those living with dementia, as well as our understanding and treatment of the condition itself. Currently, more than 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK. With our ageing population, this is set to rise rapidly, projected to hit the one million mark by 2025. In the face of this, we are making progress. Diagnostics and treatments are coming on leaps and bounds. Charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society are doing invaluable work for those living with the condition and their families. However, to make real progress, the medical, caring and advocacy communities must work together to develop tangible solutions to some of the problems we are facing in homes, care homes and communities across the UK.
Dementia touches lives in so many different ways. It is not only a medical condition, but a social and psychological one. It affects not just the person diagnosed, but their friends, family and the communities they live in. As a society we are a long way from being prepared to handle the impact of dementia, something which will only become more acute as diagnosis rates increase.
What can be done to accelerate the progress our society needs? Clearly, research funding is crucial. The Government’s prioritisation of such funding has been heartily welcomed and the fundraising efforts of leading dementia charities also remain vital, although more is needed. Adult social care funding remains dangerously inadequate, the sector long since showing signs of serious strain. If we are to care for an ageing population amongst whom dementia is increasingly common, we will need a health and social care system fit for purpose.
But aside from the financial necessities, now is the time for those working across the spectrum of dementia to come together to find tangible solutions to some of the obstacles we are facing. Solutions that only pooled knowledge and understanding can achieve. Eleven years ago, I helped launch the first UK Dementia Congress. The event was designed to bring together those working in dementia for a day of discussion. Over a decade on and the Congress has evolved into the largest annual multi-disciplinary dementia-focused event and exhibition in the UK. It offers three active days which includes debates, panel events, an exhibition, a visit from the Minister and the National Dementia Awards – now in their seventh year. It serves as unparalleled forum for professionals to learn from and be inspired by others’ experience, make connections and build the bridges needed to achieve best practice.
Ultimately, if we work in silos, many of our best efforts will come to naught. But by coming together at events like the Congress to tackle head-on some of the most pressing issues we are facing, we can ensure progress is made across the field and across the UK. The next Dementia Congress is taking place in November in Brighton and we want to encourage all people working in the field of dementia to attend. The more perspectives, experiences and inspirations we have, the more innovations we can engineer. By coming together, we can make life that bit better for those living with dementia today and, crucially, tomorrow.
- For more information about the Congress and to book your place, please visit https://www.careinfo.org/ukdc-2016/. The Congress will take place at the Brighton Centre from 1st-3rd November and all are welcome to attend. Tickets are limited, so book yours whilst you still can.