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At last Government is tackling dementia

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: June 30, 2009

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I READ with great interest the couple of news articles published in your newspaper last week on dementia.

I am very happy and I am sure so will be many dementia sufferers and their carers that at last our government has got its act together to address this dreadful progressive organic brain disease.

The main risk factor for dementia is age, however there are others including vascular risk factors which may predispose an individual to the vascular type of dementia.

The number of people with dementia in England will continue to rise and will reach one million by 2031 and 1.4 million by 2051.

Currently there are 700,000 people with dementia in UK, of which 15,000 are under 65. The UK's performance on diagnosis compares poorly with other countries by being in the bottom third of EU countries.

Another major obstacle which many other clinicians like myself find we are struggling with is, is restricted access to memory drugs. I suppose we always look for cost effectiveness but I believe that commencing memory drugs early in Alzheimer's disease can reduce the overall decline — ensuring that there are no contraindications for commencing such a drug.

I welcome the National Dementia Strategy. There are 17 key objectives to address dementia nationally, regionally and even more locally.

The very first objective of the strategy is raising awareness and educating people about dementia and this needs to be done well, because if we make a mistake on the very first objective, we are bound to fail.

The Government also plans to set up memory services in every town, which is also a step in the right direction, but these services need to be provided through a person-centred approach and provide a holistic model of care.

I work in Mid Devon as a consultant psychiatrist for older people's mental health, covering a vast geographical area with some remote spots where still a lot of work need to be done in terms of raising awareness, providing appropriate early intervention to people with early signs and symptoms of this condition and — most importantly — reducing stigma.

The population in Mid Devon is projected to rise in the next 15 years and providing effective, robust services to our elderly population should be a priority.

Sir Terry Pratchett aired his views strongly: "I've decided that I am not going to go down without a fight. For me, this really is a matter of life and death. This damn disease is not going to go away, it's only going to get worse. There is a war being fought out there and may be it's time to go out and join the troops."

Those are powerful words, said with so much passion. We need to reach out to our people as they are at the heart of our services rather than sit back and say, 'well, this is just another day and another job'.

I have been working in Mid Devon since January and I feel very passionate about our older generation in the region.

Our memory team from Crediton is not just reaching out to them and providing specialist and person-centred mental health services but is also empowering and enabling our elderly clients as well as their carers to live life as fully as possible.

We are organising dementia awareness events in on Monday, July 20, in Crediton and on Saturday, July 25, at the Mid Devon Show in Tiverton.

We are leaping out in faith and our team enjoys working with dementia clients rather then endures working with them. Perhaps this is the motto we need to follow nationally.

Dr Sanjay Jain

Locum consultant psychiatrist

Older People's Mental Health Mid Devon

(by email)

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    Louise Morse, UK  |  July 01 2009, 6:17AM

    I'd be interested to know how the government's strategy is implemented, and whether it is aspirational or intentional. If it's simply more sticking plaster, or even worse, window dressing, then Dr Jain and thousands like him will be hugely disappointed.