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Shropshire Star comment: We cannot yet make people with dementia better, but there is a lot we can still do

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Look to the future, and there are a number of crises waiting to explode.

Global warming has been identified as a ticking timebomb which must urgently be defused. But there are other forms of crises unfolding before our eyes, related to a piece of good news, that generally we are all living longer.

The increasing numbers of old people raises questions about pensions, social care, and even democracy. In such areas, our decision makers have the power, if they also have the will, to effect “cures” that can shape the future to arrive at a desired outcome.

And then there is the challenge that is posed by the relentless rise in the numbers of people with dementia. Here there is currently no ‘cure’ which means that, until such time as the disease is conquered – and as it is a spectrum there probably will never be a single cure – it is something to be lived with and managed by those affected, their loved ones, and society more widely.

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The figures are already telling the story. Across Shropshire and the West Midlands, diagnoses of dementia have been soaring when measured over a five-year period. There is a wide variation in percentage terms, from 86 per cent in parts of Staffordshire, to 15 per cent in the Sandwell and West Birmingham patch, while in Shropshire the rise is over 50 per cent.

The inference is not that some places are geographical hotspots for the onset of dementia, but that there are regional inconsistencies in diagnosing dementia and putting the necessary support in place. Some places seem more pro-active than others.

Those with progressive dementia and their loved ones are on a journey and early diagnosis gives time to prepare, make arrangements, access available support, and in some cases start treatments which may improve symptoms and perhaps one day, with medical advances, put the brakes on the decline and maybe even reverse it.

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That day is still not here, nor is it on the immediate horizon.

We cannot yet make people with dementia better, but there is a lot we can still do to help people with dementia better.

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Great news. Wonderful news. Fantastic news. This is as bad as it gets.

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Today has been dubbed Blue Monday, mathematically proven through some complicated and mind-boggling equation to be the most miserable day of the year.

A day, then, to listen to The Smiths and study Morrissey’s lyrics. A day to binge watch an EastEnders box set.

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An evening to invite along some Remainer friends – if they won’t come, invite local officials of the Labour Party instead – to have a chat about the future of the United Kingdom. Serving flat champagne will be mandatory.

After today, the only way is up.

To that positive message, we add an important qualification.

Which is that it might all be wrong and things could get worse before they get better.

You don’t need a mathematical equation to predict that the days will become gradually longer and lighter.

But so far we haven’t had a winter to speak of – and an icy blast might be just around the corner.

Then we really will be blue. Not just on Blue Monday, but blue on every other day of the week while we endure the deep freeze.

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