Dementia is one of the things that divides people into two camps. There are those who have seen it close up, and know what it can do to people’s lives and there are those who have not thought too much about it yet.

During the 10 years or so that I have been acutely aware of the issue of dementia, I have seen a number of days when Dementia earns the top slot on the news come and then go. Today is one of these.

The Government have unveiled their National Dementia Strategy which has been widely covered by the BBC, and by some of the special interest groups such as Help the aged. and the Alzheimers society

The Strategy, will create a specialist Memory clinic in every town, This will be a resource to which GPs can send patients to aid early and accurate diagnosis, for appropriate treatment, and for assistance in finding the ways to adapt to their condition and the changes it will make to their lives.

There are plans to give all GPs better training in recognising and treating dementia, and there are also plans to improve the training of the workforce that will be required to look after the growing numbers of dementia sufferers.

It is encouraging that the welcome given to the strategy by the main support groups for the elderly is generally speaking quite a warm one. It is certainly true that the Department of Health have done a great deal of work over the last few years to actively consult with support groups.

It would be entirely wrong however to believe that we now have the answers. The Government does not claim this, and there is a green paper on the crucial matter of Care funding coming out this spring.

The measures that are being put in place here can potentially help with making sure that there is some early stage support, and that a safety net can be put in place for both dementia sufferers and their carers. Dealing with the much bigger question of how we can provide a decent quality of care for numbers of dementia sufferers that will grow year after year, and do so in a way that will feel fair, can only really be done by tackling care funding root and branch.

On the days when the world does focus for a minute or two on dementia, the question that tends to be asked is “why can’t we do it as well as the Scandinavians do?”. I think there is probably a straightforward answer. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was studying social policy, there was plenty of talk about the demographic time bomb, the growing numbers of very elderly people we could reasonably expect. We talked about funding social policy too. Scandinavia was at that time setting aside substantial amounts in taxation to fund its social policy programs. We weren’t doing that. My parent’s generation were voting steadily for a low tax economy, and they got what they asked for.

When it has come to putting together their manifestos, parties of all complexions have tended to shy away from making the radical proposals that are now required.

The job now is to work out how to bridge the substantial funding gap that we are faced with. Maybe it is the job of those of us who have seen Dementia close up, to show those who have not thought too much about it, that it might be in their longterm best interest to do so.

You will find further details of the announcement on www.davidkidney.com

People who want to know more about the dementia may find the following useful. BBC health guide
An interview with a carer by Ruby Wax

Carers in Staffordshould know about CASS and the Alzheimer’s cafe which both provide valuable support for carers.

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