Dementia – the new normal?

elderly woman reading to children

by Alan Gillies

A report published last week by dementia care specialists Red & Yellow Care, in association with the Alzheimer’s Society, argues that the stigma attached to dementia is getting in the way of people with the condition living their lives, as they are “deflated by the ‘nothing can be done’ attitudes of hopelessness that pervade not just public, but some professional attitudes”.

The report outlines a six-part framework for those professionals seeking to help people to live a ‘good life’ with dementia:

      • a genuine desire to treat and respect those with dementia as unique and valuable;
      • recognising the importance of experiences in the here and now as a balance to memory-based activities;
      • sustaining meaningful human connections and relationships;
      • enabling people with dementia to experience the full range of emotions;
      • promoting spontaneity, choice and risk as assets in a life with dementia;
      • addressing every aspect of a person’s good health, regardless of their dementia.

It calls for dementia to be accepted as a ‘new normal’ and highlights the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities Programme, through which communities are committing to making their communities dementia-friendly.
As the population ages, the prevalence of dementia is projected to grow from 800,000 persons in the UK in 2012, to one million by 2021 and 1.7 million by 2051. Whether or not these figures turn out to be accurate – a New Scientist article in January discussed research suggesting that the dementia rate in developed countries may be falling rather than rising – and whether or not dementia does indeed become the ‘new normal’, it is certainly a public health issue which has to be addressed.

The recent public policy literature and professional press shows that moves are being made in the direction recommended by the report. For example

  • a recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report highlighting examples of grassroots dementia-friendly work across Yorkshire, ranging from making train travel simpler for people with the condition, to dementia-friendly sports and leisure facilities;
  • an article in Inside Housing highlighting tips on creating dementia-friendly organisations, based on a new online toolkit aimed at helping smaller housing associations assist the increasing numbers of their residents who suffer from dementia;
  • an article from MJ describing how Gloucestershire County Council is helping to make the wider workforce and residents in the county become more dementia friendly;
  • an article from Working with Older People, providing an update on the work being done by Campaign to End Loneliness.

The Founding Director of Red & Yellow Care, in his foreword to the report explains,

“We commissioned this report with a view to encouraging a debate, and seeding it with a more hopeful perspective that we would like to see lead to more energy and optimism in society’s approach to dementia.”

 Articles referred to in this blog  (please note  you must be a member to view them):

Inside Housing, 14 Feb 2014. Room for dignity

MJ magazine, Feb 2014. Developing communities (Public Sector People Managers’ Association supplement)

New Scientist, 11 Jan 2014. Down with dementia

Red & Yellow Care, 2014. A good life with dementia

Working with Older People, Vol 17 No 4 2013. Evidence-based campaigning on loneliness in older age: an update from the Campaign to End Loneliness

One thought on “Dementia – the new normal?

  1. Pingback: World Alzheimer’s Day: can we reduce dementia risk? | The Knowledge Exchange Blog

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