• Who’s Who and What’s What. Celebrity Dementia 28 September 2016 | View comments

  • One of the supplements that came with the Guardian on Wednesday carried a front page picture of the beaming Sir Michael Parkinson. A very acceptable face of ageing with silver grey hair and eyebrows, chuckle line wrinkles and sparkling eyes and teeth. His contribution to the message comes in one column on page six. His mother lived her last months with dementia and he joins the lobby for better care in hospitals and more generous funding of social care for people with dementia so that they are not inaqroqriately kept in hospitals. This is a waste of money and detrimental to their wellbeing.

    True, and we are all supportive of this view. It does seem to us via our Dementia Conversation meetings, that some, perhaps many, general hospitals are making big efforts to improve staff understanding of dementia, and learning how to care for people with dementia and their families with greater respect.

    The supplement is not a Guardian production but distributed by them, within the newspaper, for Mediaplanet https://www.mediaplanet.com/en ‘Story tellers with a purpose’

    So we might feel a little uneasy that this is not an independent analysis, but portrayal of a situation with a well-rehearsed message from a particular point of view.

    The origin is transparently the Alzheimer’s Society, with contributions from Dementia UK, Barchester, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Bluebird Care and others including Merck, Share and Dohme Limited. The latter links to a same page article where the highly respected social scientist Martin Knapp urges investment in novel dementia modifying drugs. Surprising bedfellows I would say.

    The messages, like those from Sir Michael and his mother’s story, are sound, though some use emotive words where more modest comment might be helpful.

    ‘A crisis we can’t ignore’

    ‘The numbers are staggering’

    The Barchester article tells us that their care homes are doing better in treating residents with dementia more thoughtfully and respectfully. As for general hospitals and all places where people are living, this is good news and hopefully is being demonstrated widely. Headlines usually feature poorer practice when things go badly wrong. As Sir Michael says we want to spread good practice – It requires more realistic funding. The matter of NHS Continuing Care funding is not raised within the pull-out. Perhaps too likely to ruffle the wrong feathers.

    Charles Alessi, from his Public Health England position, encourages people to know that they can reduce the chances of developing dementia by changing their life style. The advice is good. The measures suggested will improve health in general, especially cardiovascular risks. Best news is that the incidence of dementia has fallen in men – probably because people who have become better off are living healthier lives of the sort prescribed here https://www.newscientist.com/article/2084859-dementia-incidence-for-over-65s-has-fallen-drastically-in-uk-men/

    Marc Wortmann from Alzheimer’s disease International provides an easily assimilated review of the global distribution of dementia and responses generated as action plans by more countries since the UK G8 Summit in 2013. Something to be pleased about. Most plans have themes in common – raising awareness, timely diagnosis, support and improved care for individuals and families – at home and in care; and more investment in research. 

    Martin Knapp’s article is a masterpiece of succinctness which gathers and shares key facts about the prevalence, distribution and costs of dementia in the UK, including the balance between formal and unpaid family care. Hilda Hayo had contributed an argument for more Admiral Nurses in her half column. Martin Knapp considers the prospects if, or when, disease-modifying medicines are created which are more effective than those we have now. He estimates a delay of onset of 12 months would save the UK £1.5 billion per annum. He suggests that the same initiative might ‘shift the cost burden from formal to unpaid care, as a result of prolonging the period over which families can look after their loved ones at home.’

    I am not quite sure about all or any of that. There is a lack of focus on outcomes for individuals and families. Cost savings are, in the present climate, favoured arguments for those wishing to attract funds to their research.

    This sponsored pull-out is useful in bringing key facts to a wide audience in an easily read format. Linking it to family life and values by a trusted and loved celebrity will guarantee it will be read.

    There is just this suspicion that we are reading a disguised and polished grant proposal and I wish it had made something of the wonderful news that better off people in Cambridgeshire and Nottingham are now less likely to develop dementia – not because of a new drug – but presumably because they are following a healthier life style http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/new-cases-of-dementia-in-the-uk-fall-by-20-over-two-decades

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  • Comments

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    Lene Wood Created on 11/10/2016 14:48

    Hi
    I am the Kingston DAA recently appointed and trying to update the website and map out all dementia related services in Kingston.
    I would love to hear from you to see if your actions are still relavent and if you have any new services not listed
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