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Support plea after dramatic rise in dementia cases in five years

By Dominic Robertson | Health | Published:

The number of dementia sufferers in the county has gone up more than 50 per cent in five years, with charities saying more support is vital.

Dementia diagnosis in the county has gne up by more than 50 per cent in five years

The increase in both Telford and Shropshire is above the national average of 41 per cent, and reflects better systems of diagnosing the illness, but also the need for increasing support.

The number of people on the dementia register in the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group area is up from 2,351 in 2014, to 3,628 last year – a rise of 54 per cent. Over the same period the figure has risen from 809 in the Telford & Wrekin CCG area, to 1,270 – up 57 per cent.

Dr. Karen Harrison Dening, head of research and publications at Dementia UK said the response to the increasing number of people with dementia has been "very poor".

She said: "I think there are two main issues here. The first is that we are going to have a huge increase in population of older people, and one of the main risk factors of dementia is age. There is also going to be a reduction in the number of younger people who will be able to care for them.

"We still have a very, very poor response to this. We need to sharpen up considerably. Technology is getting better and we are starting to affect a diagnosis earlier but the question is, then what?

"The second element is there is a huge population that already has dementia. This is one aspect that concerns Dementia UK as there is a growing number of those people that we have a duty of care to. That is going to only increase in cost."

Dr Harrison Dening said that improvements are needed in the care provided – with sufferers frequently having to rely on family members.

Postcode lottery

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She said: "Care at the moment is very hit or miss. There are no standardised services across the country so it is still very much a postcode lottery as to what care and support you might receive.We rely heavily on families to care for their loved ones themselves.

"If you developed cancer in later life, the NHS would step in. Alzheimer’s (one type of dementia) and dementia is a brain disease, but the NHS doesn’t provide the same level of care and treatment as for other diseases and conditions.

"A third of us will die with or from dementia. This is an issue that needs tackling now."

Ewan Russell, head of policy and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, also said families are bearing significant costs of care.

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He said: "Across the board we are seeing increasing numbers of people living with dementia and simply not enough support is being provided.

"Alzheimer’s Society has published a report from LSE that shows that by 2040 the number of people living with dementia will have doubled but the costs of care for those people is going to triple. Costs have gone up to £35bn in 2019 and will have trebled to £94bn in two decades.

"Families are bearing two thirds of the costs of dementia care. With more people getting it, we do not think that that is sustainable at all."

A spokesman for NHS England said the increase in diagnoses means more people are getting care.

He said: "Spotting dementia in a timely way means people get the care they need, when they need it, so it’s good news that thanks to concerted efforts nationally and locally the NHS is now diagnosing more people than ever before, beating the target we set ourselves.

"As the population ages, dementia is becoming a challenge for more families, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people’s care and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority."

It can take you to a dark place – but with support life can be good

A man diagnosed with young onset dementia has told of his experience and his hopes to improve the lives of others living with the disorder.

George Rook, aged 68 from Ellesmere, said that after being diagnosed with dementia at 62, it can be a dark and often lonely time as people struggle to adjust.

To combat this, George bought a nationwide project to Shropshire two years ago to encourage people with all types of dementia to engage and interact with others in a similar situation.

Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) was created by Innovations in Dementia to allow people living with dementia to meet up and socialise.

George Rook who lives near Ellesmere with his dog Lupin

“After diagnosis, it can be a very dark time for people,” George said.

“People tend to lose confidence in themselves because they are finding it harder to do things and make mistakes like missing appointments and forgetting bus times.

“People tend to withdraw and remain at home and lose touch with others.

“One of the biggest things with dementia, is it can cause real loneliness and isolation – but people come out to the meetings and get their confidence back.”

Speaking of his own diagnosis with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia at 62, George said it did not come as a surprise.

He added: “My symptoms were relatively mild compared to others.

“Initially, I could not find words and could not remember them. I found it difficult to organise myself at work.

“I was overwhelmed by disruption and noise, and to an extent, I still am.

“Now, my symptoms are more in terms of balance – when I walk I tend to wander. Noisy settings I still find difficult, I can’t tolerate them.”

George is a retired English teacher and before that, an accountant, and is now the co-chair of the Lived Experience Advisory Panel at Dementia UK and is also the co-chair of the Shropshire and Telford Health Economy Steering Group.

George Rook, who lives with dementia, is helping others with the condition

“DEEP provides a lot of support to those following diagnosis,” he said. “There is not a lot you can do apart from keeping people engaged and involved.

“It is important that people are still able to do what matters to them and makes them smile. This can be anything from going to the shops, or the pub, or on a walk.

“I urge people to come along to the meetings – they are free, all you have to do is buy your drink.”

He has also criticised Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, saying the organisation does not commission enough support for people suffering from dementia in the county.

He says he wants to see more dementia companions and Admiral nurses, which can offer specialist support.

The Shrewsbury group meets on the last Thursday of the month, The Hub, 11am; the Wem group on the first Tuesday of the month, The White Lion, 11am; the Whitchurch group on the second Thursday of the month, Caru Coffi, 11am; the Church Stretton group on the third Wednesday of the month, Mayfair Cafe Lounge, 2pm; and the Oswestry group on the second Wednesday of the month, Carriages, 11am. 

How can I find help and advice?

  • Your GP is the first stop for anyone concerned about themselves or a loved one. They can organise tests and advise on support.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society website has information on all diseases that cause dementia and how to find support near you.
  • You can call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22 for information.
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK carries out research and offers advice on its helpline 0300 111 5 111
  • Age UK has advice on topics, including benefits and local activities. Call 0800 055 6112.
  • The Carers Trust provides information and advice on its website for carers, including how to get support for yourself and your loved-one.
  • Talking Point is the Alzheimer’s Society’s forum. It shares advice and offers support.
  • Dementia UK is a national charity that aims to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and offers advice and support

How quicker diagnoses is exposing true scale of dementia

It’s a diagnosis that is devastating and life-changing at any age.

Now a greater awareness and understanding of the symptoms of dementia means they are being recognised quicker than ever before.

Diagnosis rates are rising and the true scale of the dementia in the UK is becoming clearer.

Charities supporting patients say this is vital to ensure they can start getting the support they need and plans for future care can be made.

Around the UK there are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK but this is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that currently two thirds of the cost of dementia is paid by individuals and their families. In the UK this is currently estimated to be in the region £34.7billion but is expected to rise sharply to £94.1billion by 2040.

Diane Vukmirovic, of Age UK said: “Most people are cared for at home and then that puts pressure on other family members who are probably working and may have their own health problems. People are now getting older and living longer. Some people say anybody can be a carer but no they can’t – I think carers need to be trained to the level of nurses and it should be recognised in the pay they receive.”

Caring for dementia sufferers ‘a priority’ say experts in our county

Dementia in Shropshire is a “priority group where we continue to refine and develop what is on offer”, health commissioners said today.

Bosses at Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group say the national prevalence of dementia is rising and the county is in line with that trajectory.

The group says it was rated ‘excellent’ for surpassing the national NHS England target of 66 per cent diagnosis to prevalence rate and has since maintained a rate of over 70 per cent for the last 12 months.

Bosses say early diagnosis is important to get the right level of medical, nursing and social care. The assessment of dementia and access to specialist support is provided through the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT).

A spokesman for Shropshire CCG said: “The NHS has published a long term plan for mental health, and in Shropshire dementia is a priority group where we continue to refine and develop what is on offer. Shropshire CCG plans to further widen the choice in community points of access for 2020.

“We are also working with care homes to advance initiatives to improve identifying and referring residents with suspected dementia.”

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