In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the challenge of dementia:
Dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing our country. There are an estimated 850,000 sufferers in the UK. In Sevenoaks there are almost 600. Dementia costs the economy £23 billion a year – more than the costs of cancer, heart disease or strokes.
It is a situation that is only going to become more serious. By 2040, the number of dementia sufferers is expected to double, with the costs predicted to treble.
I recently visited the Forget-me-not Memory Café run by local volunteers. Despite only starting in October last year, it already attracts dozens of dementia sufferers and their carers. They come for conversation, companionship and cake. My first question for them was “where did you go before this?” The answer of course was “nowhere”.
The Memory Café is bringing people together, many of whom would otherwise rarely leave their own homes. The problem is that these initiatives are few and far between.
We are making some progress. Since 2010, a 50 percent increase in our dementia diagnosis rate has made it the highest in the world. Local NHS organisations tell me that they are working positively with the voluntary sector. Fewer people with dementia now have to travel long distances to unfamiliar surroundings for treatment.
But there is still more to do to achieve the ambitious goal set in last year’s ‘Challenge on Dementia 2020’ for the UK to be the best country in the world for dementia care and support for sufferers, their carers and their families.
For too many people, there is still “nowhere”. But with initiatives like the Memory Café, we know how to start fighting the challenge of dementia. The priority now is to make sure we do it.