ALISTAIR BURNS, NHS ENGLAND’S NATIONAL CLINICAL DIRECTOR FOR DEMENTIA
WITH the start of the Strictly Live Tour about to spin into action, it dawned on me that the cult show is actually a perfect metaphor for how to help a friend or relative with dementia.
The two may seem to have very little in common – one such a happy occasion and the other difficult to discuss and no-one’s idea of fun for Saturday night viewing.
But if you know someone with dementia then think again because you can do what the stars do for that person: stay calm, smile, have fun, help them get some exercise, and have a good time.
Being a ‘Dementia Friend’ means getting people talking and making them feel included. Strictly certainly does that. It’s a show everyone loves and talks about, from children to grandparents and everyone in between.
And anyone can become a ‘Dementia Friend’. People with dementia just need a little patience, a bit of extra time and a kind word.
With an aging population the number of people with dementia is growing. Currently 375,000 people in England have a diagnosis of dementia out of the 683,000 estimated to have the condition.
NHS England, in parallel with the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia, has an ambition that two thirds of people with dementia will have a diagnosis and post diagnostic support by March this year.
Two thirds is 455,000 which leaves a gap of 80,000 people who need to be identified.
Working closely with GPs we are trying hard to help those people.
And there are two things we want the public to do for us. Firstly, if you think you may have signs or symptoms of dementia – visit your GP.
People with cancer know it is ‘the sooner the better’ and the same applies to dementia.
There may not be a cure but we can help and support families from the start.
There are drugs which can help to slow the process and a timely diagnosis can make a significant difference to the quality of a patient’s life and the support they and their carer receives.
It can also help the person make decisions about their future and receive appropriate financial benefits. And if they sign up to help research projects it can help us to change the future for others.
And secondly, sign up to become a ‘Dementia Friend’. It’s not about volunteering or donating money but finding out how to make life a bit better for somebody with dementia.
You might not get to meet Len Goodman but you will make somebody smile and you’ll certainly get a 10 from Alistair.
See www.dementia friends.org.uk/ for more information.
●● Alistair Burns, the government’s dementia ‘tsar’