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Dementia becoming “hidden epidemic of 21st century”

5 February 2009

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The government’s National Dementia Strategy, which includes GP extra training to spot early signs of the condition, was welcomed by leading charities for older people amid warnings that still more investment will be needed to cope with the huge rise in the illness.

Reacting to the government’s announcement of a focus on early diagnosis and improved treatment for patients, Paul Cann, Director of Policy and External Relations for Help the Aged, said: “Dementia is fast becoming the hidden epidemic of the 21st century so the focus on early diagnosis and support is a positive step.”

However, he added: “Hand in hand with early diagnosis needs to be a commitment to providing more money for research into the causes of dementia.

“After years of well-funded research, early diagnosis now gives cancer sufferers the hope of recovery – without essential research, early diagnosis brings no such hope for dementia patients.

“The £1bn this strategy is expected to save should be spent finding long-term solutions to this problem as well as improving the lives of those living with the condition.”

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: “If implemented well, the government’s national dementia strategy has huge potential to improve the lives of older people and their carers. However, we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that this new strategy will address all the mental health needs of older people.

“A focus on early diagnosis, a network of memory clinics and extra training for GPs are all very welcome. Despite the expected growth in the number of people with dementia, there is still stigma and fear about the illness.

“It is estimated that by 2025 there will be one million people in the UK with dementia, which will mean more and more NHS services will need to be prepared to respond to their complex needs.

“Existing resources can be used more effectively, but significant investment is needed to ensure the NHS can meet the health needs of its ageing population.”

Help the Aged

Age Concern

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Yes – research in this area has been poor. It has been obvious that this illness has been growing over the years but not a lot has been done about this. It is a terrible illness and more than just the person who has this illness suffers – it pulls families apart. Like a lot of other illnesses, such as general adult mental health, it is not a ‘pretty’ illness and I think that it has been a matter of ‘ignore this and it will go away’ but AT LAST it has been realised that it will not go away and will INCREASE” – Name and address withheld