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Alzheimer’s: Investment in proper prevention is the key

Alzheimer’s: Investment in proper prevention is the key

At the London Assembly’s Plenary session on 10 September 2014, I contributed to the very important debate about the future of health and social care for people with Alzheimer’s disease. You can read a transcript of my speech below.

You can join the campaign via great organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society.
“Thank you Chairman.

In moving this motion, Assembly Member Pidgeon mentioned the growth in the numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and we have heard the moving account from Assembly Member Biggs of his personal experiences.

Colleagues, the current figures linked to this disease are so alarming that they are worth repeating:

  • 1 in 3 people over 65 in the UK gets dementia;
  • That equates to over 73,000 Londoners. And the numbers are growing, as our population ages; and
  • Health policy and practice set by central and, in some cases, local government fails to keep up.

As a former registered nurse, and from my own experience as a carer I know all too well the effects that Alzheimer’s has on the individual and, sadly, their friends, families and communities.

Once a person develops dementia, 24-hour care is often needed and the financial cost for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease increases as a result.  Not to mention the terrible effects this has on a person’s loved ones, as they watch their partners, their fathers, mothers, grandparents and children deteriorate in front of them.

Dementia services are estimated to cost the UK £23Billion a year, but much of this cost is due to our focus on reactive treatment, rather than proactive prevention.

I hope that we would all agree that prevention is better than cure. I therefore fully support The Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign to ensure that, by 2015, there are at least one million people registered as a Dementia Friend;

As Assembly Member Pidgeon has said, Dementia Friends are people who understand a bit more about dementia and the small things that can be done to help people with the condition. For example, I’ve been working very closely with the Alzheimer’s Society over the past couple of years, and I was privileged to attend a ‘Singing for the Brain’ session back in March this year up in my constituency.

The programme lead by the local Alzheimer’s group of volunteers and skilled practitioners utilised singing and dancing as therapeutic treatment for people with dementia and, most importantly, their loved ones.

It’s a terrific initiative and one that has such fabulous benefits for patients and family members, but we need to complement this with appropriate levels of investment in prevention – through more extensive and comprehensive screening programmes and a new, fair funding system.

In 2009, our colleagues down the river as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia published the report of their inquiry into improving lives through cost effective dementia services. The £20-billion-care-cost question was based on evidence submitted from across the health and care sectors and it concluded current resources could be used more effectively to achieve better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.

The report made recommendations including:

  • improving collaboration and integration;
  • more training in dementia care;
  • improving rates of diagnosis; and
  • sharing good practice.

Five years later, we’re still waiting for many of these recommendations to be rolled out across our health services. Without swift, comprehensive changes to the way we deal with Alzheimer’s in London and the UK, the problem is only going to get worse as our population grows and ages.

Colleagues, I urge you to fully support this motion and in your own way seek to champion the work of organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society. I also fully support the call in the motion for the Greater London Authority and the GLA family to offer Dementia Friends training for staff.”