Today (Tuesday 22nd November) marks a stepping stone for Dementia in York. York City Council has announced that Councillor Tracey Simpson-Lang, who is the Cabinet Member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Services, is expected to approve the North Yorkshire and York Dementia Strategy.
It is hoped this strategy will provide a marked improvement in the quality of life for the growing number of those diagnosed with Dementia. The aim is to improve services for people with dementia and their carers. It is important that services take into consideration the differing individual circumstances that are apparent in dementia patients and that they support people to live independently with a quality of life that is productive, fulfilling and active for as long as possible.
In addition, York City Council has also announced Councillor Tracey Simpson-Lang is expected to agree and sign the Dementia Declaration.
The Dementia Declaration was created in partnership with people with dementia and their carers and has already been signed by 45 organisations in October 2010. By signing this declaration York will approve the local plan to deliver the strategy in our city. There are many outcomes of this declaration which include providing patients with choice and control over the decisions that affect their lives, and enabling them to feel valued as part of their family and community.
As part of the declaration the council will be committed to publish an action plan setting out what they will do to secure these outcomes and improve the quality of life of people with dementia by 2014. This action plan comes from the York Dementia Working Group report which highlighted the needs and action required by York and therefore should provide a welcome increase in service and service quality.
York has already started taking action in this area with care home providers already sharing good practice across the independent sector and council, as well as social care commissioners already beginning to work closely with care homes to assure and improve quality.
Dementia is a growing problem not just locally, or even nationally, but world wide. Becoming all too common, in England alone there are currently 570,000 people living with dementia and this number is expected to double over the next 30 years.
The illness is becoming more and more visible in society. Think about it, do you know or know of someone with some form of dementia? With our life expectancy is increasing and the fact that dementia usually occurs in people who are 65 or over it is likely the illness will become more common and more visible. This problem needs addressing now and that is what York is doing.
However, another stumbling block comes from the confusion that often stems over what dementia is, in particular the difference between dementia and the all too common phrase, Alzheimers disease. If we don’t even really understand what the illnesses are how can we support our family, friends and community who are living through the condition either directly or as a carer or family member?
Alzheimers disease is actually a type of dementia. Dementia is a symptom, like pain, and can be caused by other disorders aside from Alzheimer’s. The Alzeimer’s Society describe
dementia as “a term used to describe various brain disorders’s that have in common a loss of brain funciton that is usually progressive and eventually severe.” Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies are also a problem.
These dementia related illnesses have terrible consequences. Not only causing problems with memory, thinking and behaviour, they can result in having to give up employment, lifelong hobbies and even social life, this can also be the case for family members who become carers. Over time, indendence is lost, feelings of isolation can occur, some people have to give up driving, mobility can become a problem as well as personal safety, care may be needed in the home, and it is possible that eventually residential care in a nursing home may be needed. This is a heart wrenching decision no family wants to make.
The strain dementia can place on relationships and the huge affects it can have on the carer, who is often a family member, can be immense. The quality of life that can result is also controversial.
A very public example of this is the fantasy writer, Terry Pratchett, who was diagonsed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 at just 60 years of age. Pratchett publically confirmed recently that he planned to sign consent forms from the Dignita’s clinc in Switzerland that could lead to his own assisted suicide. Pratchett did state that by signing formal consent forms with Dignita did not necessarily mean he was going to take his own life, and a high percentage of people who sign consent forms with Dignita do not acually go through with the proceedings. However this is a testiment to the severity of this condition.
Dementia gets worse over time and at the present time there is no cure, which I am sure you will agree leads to a very frightening diagnosis. However there are a number of effective treatments that can provide coping mechanisms.
Voluntary orgnaisations, the NHS and Social Services can all provide help but this new Dementia strategy and declaration that York are plan to sign on Tuesday will hopefully provide a big boost for anyone living with dementia. Obviously the extra support and services are essential, but the boost from dementia being given priority in our community and that it is being acknowledged publically, seriously and officially is a strong, poitive step for York.
The Alzheimer’s Society provides information on services offered locally in and around York currently. These include Befriending for Carers in York which provides emotional support and social contact, Caring and Coping courses, home respite, information and advice, information on the Minister Inn Group which is an informal evening group held every one to two months at the Minster Inn, Marygate, York. There is also links to social events, and a walking group.
The North Yorkshire & York Dementia Strategy and the Dementia Declaration are definitely a welcome step in the right direction. York, let’s stay aware of the need in our community to develop our services, support and understanding of dementia and let’s work together to create a brighter future for our loved ones, or loved ones of others who face this challenge.