Health: New drive to highlight dementia diagnosis

The government has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the signs of dementia and importance of early diagnosis of dementia after revealing that as many as six out of ten people with the condition have not been recognised by health carers.

In the East of England alone, more than 75,000 people are currently living with dementia, and 62 per cent of those have not been formally diagnosed.

The total number of people in the region living with dementia is expected to reach almost 105,000 by 2021.

In a new survey carried out for the Department of Health, just over a third of people over the age of 40 in the East of England understand the differences between the symptoms of dementia and signs of ageing.

The National Audit Office estimates that, nationally, dementia costs health and social care services £8.2 billion per year and Alzheimer’s Research UK have estimated that the overall cost of dementia to society as a whole is £23 billion per annum.

It is estimated that savings of £80 million could be made every year by improving hospital care for people with dementia and that every general hospital has excess costs of £6 million because of dementia, due to worse outcomes for length of stay, mortality and institutionalisation.

With Christmas fast approaching, many of us are beginning to plan for the time of year when families are likely to spend more time together and see loved ones that we may not have seen for a while.

It is often during this time when differences in behaviour and memory are noticed and when a crisis point can surface.

In fact, the Alzheimer’s Society received some 1,870 calls in January this year – almost double the number received in December 2010.

Unfortunately, recognising that someone close to us may have dementia often comes too late, resulting in a crisis point and delayed diagnosis. Early diagnosis can, however, lead to better quality of life and prolonged independence.

Memory problems are often put down to a natural part of getting older. However, this lack of understanding of the symptoms is believed to be why only 40 percent of people with dementia in England have a formal diagnosis. As such, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the country that could be going without the vital treatment and support that the NHS can offer.

The £2 million campaign will feature TV, radio and print adverts to emphasise the importance and benefits of early diagnosis.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “People are afraid of dementia and rather than face the possibility someone they love has the condition, they can wrongly put memory problems down to ‘senior moments’.

“But if you are worried, the sooner you discuss it and help the person seek support the better. Don’t wait until a crisis. Being diagnosed with dementia won’t make the condition worse but leaving it untreated will.

“We can’t cure dementia, but we can help you keep the person you love for longer through vital support the NHS can offer.”

For further information on the symptoms of dementia and the support available, visit www.nhs.uk/dementia