A longstanding focus of mine has been to ensure that the services offered locally for those suffering from dementia are as good as they can be.
As mentioned in this column before, I have been hugely impressed by the professionalism of Andrew Day and his team of staff and volunteers at Salisbury’s Alzheimer’s Society.
One of their strengths has been to channel our community’s growing awareness of the challenges of dementia in our ageing population into effective provision with local partners (ie the hospital, GPs and Wiltshire Council).
The Memory Café, as well as exemplary advice and support for those caring for people with dementia, means Salisbury is more fortunate than most.
On Monday evening I joined our local Alzheimer’s group at the White Hart Hotel to discuss the application of the Prime Minister’s recent Dementia Challenge for the people of Salisbury.
One of the headlines of the announcement was that funding for research into dementia is to be more than doubled to £66m by 2015, from £26.6m in 2010, in a bid to make this country a world leader in this field.
The Prime Minister’s announcements are a response to the fact that we have about 400,000 people in this country who have dementia but who havw not been diagnosed.
It is hoped that by giving hospitals an extra £54m to spend on diagnosis, better services can be commissioned. The research into the underlying causes will allow public health interventions to happen earlier so the impact of what can be a dreadfully debilitating and frightening condition can be managed.
By raising awareness at all levels – among retailers, business people, in schools and among faith communities – we will enhance understanding of how dementia impacts on the daily lives of sufferers and put in place more thoughtful responses to their needs.
I was left humbled by the devotion of the carers to their loved ones as well as the positivity that emanated from those suffering from dementia.
The Government must now address the social care crisis alongside dementia.
This for me is the most important outstanding issue that constituents want addressed very soon.