Dementia Friends Meeting in Morley

Sometimes one person’s story has a profound effect. At the end of my Dementia Friends information event in Morley last week, one person came up to me and said, “After today I’m going to talk to my doctor about the problems I’ve been having for months with my memory.” For that one person, there might be nothing to worry about. But if there is, finding out more about dementia now means they may get the early diagnosis that could really improve their quality of life.

Dementia isn’t just a natural part of ageing and it isn’t just about losing your memory but can also affect how things look and feel as well as all kinds of everyday tasks. Across the country, a staggering 225,000 will develop dementia this year – one person every 3 minutes. For my generation – one in three will develop the disease. So it’s shocking that at the moment only half of those with dementia actually receive a diagnosis. That means that many of those with the disease are not receiving the appropriate treatment and care they need.

Becoming 1 of the thousands of Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends is about taking a small first step and simply about learning a little bit more about what it is like to live with dementia. Because by developing our understanding we can then do more to help those with dementia to feel included and to have an active role in life.

Here in Morley there are already Dementia cafes at Jubilee Court (first Tuesday of each month 1-3pm) and St Mary’s (First Thursday of the month 1.30 -2.30pm) for those with dementia and their carers to reminisce, make friends and relax in a friendly atmosphere.
I’m planning more dementia friends’ events with the Alzheimer’s Society and will be popping into one of our local cafés here in Morley too.

When I was in Government in 2009, we launched the first event National Dementia Strategy. This was about raising awareness of the condition, improving rates of diagnosis and increasing the range of services available. Overall the priority was to improve the quality of life both for those living with dementia but also for those who care for them.

GPs now receive financial support for dementia diagnosis. And there are many more support groups – including local ones right here in Morley – to support dementia patients and their families.

But at the end of the day, dementia is a disease – just like cancer or diabetes. And that means we also need to invest in research into finding a cure. So it is also welcome that there is broad political commitment to increasing funding into dementia research.

What is also clear from my meeting in Morley last week, for every person with dementia, there is also a family to think about, especially their main carer who is looking after them on a daily basis.

Some carers, depending on their age, may still be in paid employment. For them access to flexible working arrangements is vital. And whether or not they’re working all carers need access to good support that enables them to juggle their own life with caring for a loved one.

Unfortunately there is currently a real crisis in care after billions has been lost from adult social care budgets since 2010. That means that many of those who could have retained an active role in their communities, or who just needed some support to enable them to stay in their own homes, may have been forced into residential care.

And keeping people in their own homes for as long as possible is almost always the best solution for everyone. But to do that with medical advancements and pressures from an ageing population means looking at NHS and social care budgets differently so that we save money and improve care.

New measures that have made stronger commitments to improve things for dementia patients are welcome but at the moment not enough is being done. We need to recruit the next generation of homecare workers and to give better support to family carers. And we need to find better ways to support all those with caring responsibilities.

I’m holding more meetings to discuss the health service and local people’s experiences over the next few months. For more information, please contact my Morley office on 0113 253 9466. Or to find out more about dementia friends – see the blog on my website: www.edballs.co.uk or www.dementiafriends.org.uk. Or for more information about local groups contact the Alzheimer’s Society care line on 0845 306 0898.

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Posted November 4th, 2014 by Ed