DE­MEN­TIA AWARE­NESS

Macclesfield Express - - MACCLESFIELD PEOPLE -

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’

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