NCPC backs dementia awareness campaign

7 November 2011
A £2m Department of Health (DH) campaign aimed at raising awareness of the early symptoms of dementia has the backing of the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC).

The campaign targets the family and friends of people at risk of dementia who are likely to be the first to see the signs and can encourage their loved one to see their GP.

Featuring television, radio and print advertisements, the adverts tell the story of a forgetful man who is helped by his daughter to find out that he has dementia. While accepting it is a hard issue to raise with him, the message is that acting on her concerns and getting help means the daughter can keep the father she knows for longer.

Speaking today, Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition, said: “Early dementia diagnosis must be followed up by early discussion and planning if it is to make a real difference to the care people with dementia receive and to ensuring they get their wishes met. As we set out in our recent ‘Difficult Conversations’ guide,  produced  by people  with dementia and carers, people with dementia often receive poor care at the end of their life but this doesn’t have to be the case.

"Making it easier to talk early to people with dementia and to help them express their wishes and future plans right through to end of life care can ensure that everyone who needs it receives high quality care and support. With an ageing population, the number of people with dementia is set to rise, which is why identifying and supporting people with dementia and talking more openly must be a priority.”

The nationwide campaign follows a successful pilot in the north west, and Yorkshire and Humber NHS regions in March this year. The number of people over the age of 40 who said they would go to their GP if they experienced any symptoms or ask a close relative or friend to do so underwent a significant increase following the pilot scheme.

Statistics from the Alzheimer's Society show that of the 750,000 people with dementia in the UK currently, only 40% receive a diagnosis. The DH estimates that every general hospital has excess costs of £6m because of dementia, due to the worse outcomes for length of stay, mortality and institutionalisation. In hip fracture alone, better management of patients who also have dementia could save between £64m and £102m in England every year.

Signs and symptoms of dementia

Dementia is not a single illness but a group of symptoms caused by damage to the brain. The symptoms include:

  • Memory loss, such as remembering past events much more easily than recent ones
  • Problems thinking or reasoning, or finding it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes
  • Feeling anxious, depressed or angry about memory loss, or feeling confused, even when in a familiar environment

More

The NCPC has published Difficult Conversations: Making it easier to talk to people with dementia about the end of life.

It aims to help anyone, voluntary or professional, caring for someone with dementia to open up conversations about end of life wishes and preferences, in order to enhance quality of life.

The guidance is based on conversations with around fifty people affected by dementia; people with dementia, carers and former carers.

Difficult Conversations can be ordered from the NCPC website at a cost of £2.50 for subscribers, £5 for others.

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