Older Mind Matters

World Alzheimer's Day: encouraging action and challenging stigma

Yesterday (September 21st) was World Alzheimer’s Day. I confess that I didn't see it coming. I now know too that the month of September was (and still is as I write this) World Alzheimer’s month, part of a campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma. In fact this year was the fourth time there has been a whole month devoted to Alzheimer’s action (did you know that?) There was certainly some striking press coverage and I learned more personally. For instance, I found two reports that I hadn’t previously come across.

The first is the Office of Health Economics Report, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, called The Trajectory of Dementia in the UK – Making a Difference. The key findings of this report focus on what will happen with the increasing population of older people if we don’t find ways to prevent or cure dementia. It estimates the cost in terms of numbers of people living with dementia, economics, costs to informal carers, and poor quality of life, and looks at how the trajectory of dementia could change if new treatments become available.

The second report is the World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia, and this looks at the global costs of dementia, and numbers of people affected across the world. Did you know that nearly 60% of people living with dementia live in low and middle income countries? People often think of dementia as being a condition that affects affluent countries, so this may come as a surprise. But there is no doubt that dementia is a global issue.

The British press (see for example the Guardian or the Independent) picked up on Alzheimer’s Research UK’s prediction that one-third of British people born in 2015 will develop dementia if things don’t change, and the call for more research funding and more research. This may be a success for awareness, but I’m not sure whether it’s a step forward in challenging stigma. I worry that scary figures may feed pessimism and helplessness rather than resolve. How do we encourage action and challenge prejudice?

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Dave Jolley wrote:
Action Days
I do agree with you. I have never plugged into these weeks or days or months of special action: Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Mental Health, Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Toilets: there is a long list. Maybe some months are split in their devotions. It is the same with church and their ‘Gift Days’. We pay our regular subs monthly, having worked out what seems reasonable and affordable alongside contributions to other causes. So, having set that up, where is the argument for an additional splurge on one Sunday? Well – people just like to do these things and there must be some argument in terms of monies or memberships or whatever which makes them do it
The reports you point to are available anyway any time, and newspapers and other media outlets usually pick them up when they are released and/or in association with a scandal or personal story of interest.
On balance it is good that people are more aware of dementia and similar conditions and that more resource is being mobilised to help people with dementia and those who care for them. More money too for research into causes, treatments and care strategies. Like you, I am uncomfortable about the scaremongering which is used to grab attention and make the pleas more competitive against other good causes. Mostly people with dementia are people, changed but not unrecognisable, and perfectly prepared to carry on their lives in acceptance that they cannot do quite all the things they used to be able to. But they can still do somethings and most hold this life and its relationships dear
We must talk some more about DoLS and the world of legalislation

Mon, September 28, 2015 @ 8:44 AM

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