Supporting patients in Dementia Awareness Week

This month sees Dementia Awareness Week which runs from May 17 – 23. As a busy GP, I diagnose and support patients with dementia throughout the whole year.

There are around 800,000 people in the UK with dementia and one in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia. Two thirds of that number will be women.

As people are now living longer, the increase in dementia suffers will increase and within the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), we are looking at supporting our patients more effectively.

One of our local priorities is to increase the number of people who get a diagnosis of dementia. The benefit of this is that those patients will then be able to access support more quickly and continue to live an active life.

Dementia is one of the more common worries that a lot of our patients have as they get older, both for themselves and for their loved ones. They worry if they should come to see their GP about common symptoms such as:

  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Losing items regularly
  • Poor short term memory
  • Confusions
  • Mood swings
  • Problems with communicating
  • Poor concentration
  • Getting lost in seemingly familiar places
  • Repeating yourself frequently

All of the above symptoms are ones that we can all suffer from once in a while, or at different times as we get older, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that a diagnosis of dementia will be made.

There is a series of tests that we would use with someone who thinks they may be suffering from early dementia and your GP can talk these through with you and your loved one.

It can be a worrying time if you or a loved one is diagnosed with dementia but there is a lot of support available now to support you.

As GPs, we are able to refer to a memory assessment and management service in the practice. There is also a Dementia Support Network, which is a joint project with the local authority.

There are times when you think that you have early dementia and, in fact, it is something else that is causing very similar symptoms, so it is always a good idea to have a chat with your GP to discuss your concerns. Other support services include:

  • Memory assessment clinics
  • Singing for the Brain (Boultham Park),
  • Dementia Café (Gainsborough),
  • Alzheimer society-support and Dementia Friends training,
  • Managed care Network-
  • Health walks

Once diagnosed, common concerns and myths include:

  • That you will necessarily end up in a care home
  • That your wishes will not be heard
  • That you will become a passive recipient of care that you have not been a part of
  • That you won’t be told about your diagnosis

None of the above is true. As with cancer in the past, which was a topic not talked about openly, it is now with dementia.

Patients need to be informed early so they can make their own choices. We are determined as your CCG to make sure that people live as active a life as possible with dementia. We support the statements from the Dementia Action Alliance:

  • I was diagnosed early
  • I understand, so I make good decisions and provide for future decision-making
  • I get the treatment and support that are best for my dementia and my life
  • Those around me, and looking after me, are well supported
  • I am treated with dignity and respect
  • I know what I can do to help myself, and who else can help me
  • I can enjoy life
  • I feel part of the community and I’m inspired to give something back
  • I am confident my end of life wishes will be respected. I can expect a good death.
  • I had the opportunity to take part in research