Friday, 18 May 2012

Raising awareness of dementia

Given the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent estimate that dementia numbers are expected to triple throughout the world by 2015, from 35.6 million to 115 million, it seems fitting to highlight Dementia Awareness Week taking place in England, Northern Ireland and Wales from 20-26 May this year and in Scotland on 18 June.

The need for this awareness is further emphasised by the figure of $604 million –  the amount predicted to be spent each year on treating individuals with dementia. This includes loss of income of those who have given up work to care for loved ones with dementia.

According to WHO and Alzheimer's Disease International, programs to tackle dementia (only currently undertaken in eight countries) should focus on improving early diagnosis, public awareness about dementia, support for caregivers and reducing the stigma associated with dementia.

Unfortunately, health care workers are often insufficiently trained to detect dementia. Only one in five of all dementia cases are diagnosed and in the majority of cases, the disease is in its latter stages at this point.

Lack of information and understanding of the disease are to blame for the stigma attached to dementia. Many people, including caregivers, feel socially isolated because of it. Reducing the stigma will hopefully reduce delays in diagnosis as well as delays in support and healthcare.

In most cases, dementia sufferers are cared for informally by friends and family, including children, but caregivers themselves can be vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as poor physical health. Therefore, the more support given to carers, the longer individuals with dementia can remain at home rather than enter costly care.

First Psychology Scotland has centres in the following locations

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,

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