So here we are, in the middle of March 2021, a year into the Covid-19 pandemic. The vaccine roll-out maybe making strides, but the disease still clutches many parts of the country with an iron-like grip.
Loved ones have been lost and some are battling to survive, not only from this disease. The damage caused to other disease sufferers by restrictions, lockdowns, and limited access to care and family is unprecedented. Effects we will likely experience for many years, for those of us who have years left.
As the rules on care home visits ease with our journey out of lockdown, we ask – are we all guilty of taking our ‘eye off the ball’ when it comes to another virulent disease: dementia? We explore just some of the issues surrounding this debilitating disease and how it is increasingly waiting for us all, in the ‘wings’, ready to hit the limelight on the main stage. Perhaps we are sleepwalking into another pandemic.
“WHAT IS THE OPPOSITE MEANING OF DEMENTIA?”
Seriously! This is one of the internet search results thrown-up when you ask, ‘what is dementia?’ This vocab quiz even offers 3 options as an answer: A) Sanity B) Madness C) Weakness. Three terms that do not sit well with us when relating vocabulary to dementia, appearing somewhat derogatory, and an example of society’s simplistic view of a complex disease.
If you take time to refer to the professionals, actually “Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain”. Did you know that subtypes of dementia amount to over 200? Here are five you may have heard of: Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.
DEMENTIA IS PROJECTED TO INCREASE RAPIDLY!
Oh, and it looks like most of us will one day get some form of dementia…..have we got your attention now?
According to research conducted for The Alzheimer’s Society, 1 million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025, increasing to 2 million by 2050, due to demographics and an ageing population. Recently, the effects of sport have been raised as another reason for its increasing prevalence, with many friends and relatives of ex-professional football and rugby players, who are now sufferers, speaking out.
Big OH, and there is no known cure for dementia and there have been no new treatments for dementia in over 10 years and known dementia drugs only alleviate some symptoms.
Finest medical minds have managed to create, research, test, and roll-out a vaccine for a coronavirus within a year, yet no treatments currently exist to effectively delay the onset or slow the progression of dementia. Admittedly, not an ‘apples versus apples’ comparison, but another signpost to how this disease, and others, might be perceived and, specifically, ranked on government agendas.
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE ‘DEMENTIA TAX’?
Now sit down before you read this part.
Most care received by dementia sufferers is classed as social care and not readily available for free on the NHS. Such care includes help with everyday tasks we often take for granted (e.g., eating, going to the toilet, washing) and other 1-2-1 support that is either delivered in the home or in a care home.
Here’s the rub; social care is means-tested and therefore costs a fortune to most people, thus termed the ‘Dementia Tax’. In England, anyone with dementia and with assets (including their house) over £23,250 will have to pay thousands of pounds for their care, which subsequently becomes the burden of relatives. The Alzheimer’s Society estimate that a typical dementia sufferer’s bill for care might take an astonishing 125 years to save for!
This is not the case for other diseases which have medical treatments, such as heart disease and cancer, which receive free NHS treatments. Remember, dementia does not have these treatments yet. Arguably a highly unfair system and one which The Alzheimer’s Society is campaigning to change – so should we all; remember, most of us will suffer from some form of dementia.
Here at Safehands, we strive to deliver compassionate, meaningful, and effective care in an array of social care settings. We regularly work with dementia patients, as well as their families, and often witness the challenges we have raised, along with the devasting effects of both the disease and the government’s current stance.
So, whilst you can still answer inane vocab quiz questions such as “what’s the opposite meaning of dementia” and you remember your most treasured moments and loved ones, stop to think about all those dementia sufferers who perhaps can’t, who were once like you and us, and try to make a positive difference where and when you can. We most certainly will.
For more information on the great work of The Alzheimer’s Society and how you can support the cause, please visit: www.alzheimers.org.uk