While it is increasingly common, dementia is still not very well understood and the stigma attached means that often people don't ask for help or just put the symptoms down to ageing.
There are currently around 800,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia, at an annual cost of £23billion. This number is estimated to double, and costs treble by 2040. A lot can be done to help people cope with the symptoms of dementia, but at the moment the diagnosis rate in England is only 51%.
In 2009 the Department of Health launched the first every National Dementia Strategy for England, setting out 17 recommendations which need to be taken by the NHS, local authorities and others in order to:
- Improve dementia care services
- Raise awareness and understanding.
- Improve early diagnosis and support.
- Live well with dementia.
In March 2012 the Prime Minister set a challenge to deliver major improvements in care and research by 2015.
In September 2014 NHS England published a new 'Dementia Toolkit' for health care professionals to help them make more timely diagnosis and offering advice.
- Every hospital in England is being asked to become dementia friendly, trusts are appointing a senior clinical lead for dementia to ensure training for staff, and funding is being made available for risk assessments to the quality of care.
- Care homes and services have been asked to sign up to the Dementia Care and Support Compact, which sets out the standards for dementia care, work on a targeted campaign to improve both diagnosis, and post diagnosis support, and provide training resources for health and care workers.
- The Care Act 2014 has introduced significant changes to better support carers giving them the right to have their needs assessed for the first time.
- A state of the nation report into dementia in November 2013 pulled together relevant local and national data on dementia and allows someone to check their local dementia services performance.
- Dementia friendly communities are being created and the recent initiative by the Alzheimers Society to recruit 'Dementia Friends' has been well publicised, over 850,000 friends are giving people with dementia a little understanding and a helping hand.
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