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By Debbie le Quesne

Dementia now the leading cause of death

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It’s a subject close to my heart, and after nursing both parents who suffered with dementia I’m not surprised to hear the memory-loss condition, including Alzheimer’s disease, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

Last year, more than 61,000 people died of dementia – 11.6 per cent of all recorded deaths.

The Office for National Statistics says the change is largely due to an ageing population.

People are living for longer and deaths from some other causes, including heart disease, have gone down.

And of course, doctors are now much better at diagnosing dementia and the condition is now given more weight on death certificates.

The majority of beds now taken in our nursing homes are for those with some form of dementia, though this may not be the primary condition.

Hilary Evans of Alzheimer’s Research UK was reported in the Press as saying: “These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia.

“Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”

Martina Kane of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “It is essential that people have access to the right support and services to help them live well with dementia and that research into better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the agenda.”

There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

My question to those who hold the purse strings for social care: How are we expected to care for them correctly without more money coming our way?

Vanity projects have been the hallmark of many governments. The breaking of the miners’ union under Mrs Thatcher, the Millennium Dome, Heathrow’s new runway expansion, Trident and not least HS2, have all be cited as political legacy monuments.

But let’s get something clear here. The West Midlands Care Association is not, to use a term, “a political animal” and we’ll work with whatever party to enhance the delivery of social care. Truth is, however, every political persuasion has a desire to leave it’s mark, but perhaps now is a time to fix sights on a massive national problem – the state of social care.

The government currently says HS2 will cost £55.7 billion. In 2010 the original estimates were put at £32bn.

A foolish thought, I know, but shouldn’t we be shelving this scheme and diverting the money into resolving the care crisis that has gripped the nation?

That way, those locked into the distressing and surreal battle with dementia could be properly cared for. Have I got the social and economic values all so wrong? Clearly, things are never so simplistic, but at this time it appears a pretty good option to me.

We need to stop thinking about the expressions of dementia – it’s a condition that can be frightening to both carer and patient, it can be hard to be around it, it can be violent and it can destroy those who are simply under-gunned in the fight to deliver compassionate care.

Perhaps our MPs will note that all care needs to be respectful, but it costs and funding needs to come from somewhere. Also, perhaps they could take on board that the dementia drain on diminishing social care funds is for a people group which never chose to be such a burden on society.

The Association is acutely aware of the growing workload for dementia care and the social skills it needs.

Last month (October) – Dementia Month – we worked with all of our care providers and the Aged Care Channel TV (ACCTV) to get additional training to the carers.

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