Letter from the Health Editor: Support after dementia diagnosis

 

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We’re getting used to frightening headlines about dementia.

It’s the “time bomb” that could cripple our health and care system and change society as we know it. Nearly two million people could be living with the disease by 2050 – and for each of them, a family struggling to support their loved one.  Those are the figures. But today’s news – that one in five dementia patients is offered no guidance or support after diagnosis – cuts to the heart of what this crisis means for the people at the centre of it.

For every statistic there’s an individual that may have to sit down opposite their doctor and be told: “you have dementia.”

Having to hear those words is grim enough. To hear them, and then be left alone, must be torture.

Some of the stories shared by the Alzheimer’s Society should be required reading for all doctors working with dementia patients: Shelagh, from Crewe, who spent less than five minutes with a doctor who hardly made eye contact as he broke the news;  Derek, from Wiltshire, who went into “a dark hole” of depression, receiving no support after his dementia diagnosis.

That this could happen to someone we know is more frightening than any number.

No-one should have to walk out of hospital or GP surgery after that diagnosis, not knowing what to do or who to turn to. If the UK is going to cope with the increasing burden of dementia, it is crucial to get this first, most basic thing right.

Alzheimer’s Society’s call for the Government to guarantee that a named professional is on-hand to help and advise, every time someone is diagnosed with dementia, is one that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, should heed.

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