Letters: Dementia

Cracking the taboo that surrounds dementia
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The Independent Online

I applaud John Suchet's honesty and remain moved by the others who bravely and publicly dare to admit to feelings of resentment while caring for someone with dementia (report, 18 February). Cracking the taboo that engulfs dementia was made more effective because of Mr Suchet's profile; he gave a voice to other carers and sufferers and encouraged others to share their experiences.

This will eventually help to ensure dementia is recognised as a mainstream condition that can affect any of us, rather than a plague on the elderly. Dementia would be more widely accepted if sufferers and carers were not treated as if they had leprosy.

The widespread silence about dementia is unacceptable. Although the government dementia strategy is valid, work on the ground is needed to lay bare this devastatingly sad illness, and make provisions for carers and sufferers.Caring for someone with dementia can be unbearable and, compounded with a lack of professional support, the carer can be left feeling isolated and ostracised.

Further stigma surrounds admission into care homes. The perception that this move signifies a carer's defeat and a sufferer's deterioration, must be tackled. Care homes can offer valuable support to carers, either during a short-stay visit or with long-term care. We have recently been particularly active in drama and music therapy with our dementia residents, which have proved beneficial to the sufferer and noticeable for their families and carers.

Care homes can help relieve the agony of carers of dementia sufferers and work with families to build a solid support network for all involved.

Leon Smith

Chief Executive, Nightingale, London SW12

Downside to those bank bonuses

I am married to an employee of what was recently HBOS and before that, the Bank of Scotland, who works in a high street branch. At this level, salaries are meagre (£12,000 to £16,000 a year), and part of this is paid as a bonus based on targets. This is hard-earned and I am concerned that the publicity given to the fat cats at the top who get huge bonuses for apparently doing little will make the public despise those who actually earn their bonuses.

My wife has worked for this organisation for more than 20 years and part of the perks is a share-save scheme. Being prudent, her total investment is more than £30,000. Many thousands of the bank's employees have taken similar action.

Due to mismanagement (I would like to use much stronger language), this investment has now lost 95 per cent of its value. This means she has lost more than 10 per cent of her earnings. Obviously, we are aware of the risk when investing in shares but bank shares used to be among the most reliable. Pension funds are suffering too. I am self-employed and have a private pension. The value of my fund dropped by a third almost overnight. I am now doubtful whether I will be able to retire.

In many circumstances, the word "sorry" can appease and relieve. In this case, where millions of people have had their futures disrupted by the greedy actions of a few self-seeking individuals who have been trusted to run vital institutions, that word is totally inadequate.

S T Davie

Castle Douglas, Galloway

President Barack Obama has stated that he believes there should be a ceiling of $500,000 for financial bonus payments in the USA. There has been no such directive in Britain, where bonuses of £6m have been reported.

At the same time, the voluntary emergency services for mountain rescue and coastguards, which self-fund, are each requesting approximately £6m to fund their national network for vehicle fuel and basic administrative needs.

Closer to home, my children attend a school of 1,300 pupils that has no sports hall, and uses 30-year-old asbestos-containing portable huts for classrooms. (Building Schools for the Future is not due to start in Staffordshire until 2013, if ever.) For a mere £4m, my children's school could have the basic buildings that it so desperately needs.

Three financiers' annual bonuses could pay for all of the above, but still the Government gives my taxes to the greedy financial institutions that employ them.

Anne Jones


Is sharia decision a Taliban victory?

Under the influence of the radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban's so-called courts in Pakistan's Swat valley have had men publicly whipped for shaving their beards, destroyed shops for selling music and prohibited women from leaving their houses unless escorted by a male relative.

The Taliban's track record on subjugating women in Afghanistan is well known, and in the past 18 months its Pakistani variant has also destroyed 170 schools in Swat, including 100 girls' schools.

The Pakistani response, primarily military, has been a disaster for local people, swinging from heavy-handed operations causing high civilian casualties, to simply abandoning Pakistani citizens to the the Taliban.

But Islamabad's introduction of sharia law into the Swat valley and neighbouring Malak-and district looks to be a capitulation to the Taliban. The fear must be that the Pakistani government is all but giving up on its responsibility to protect the human rights of every man, woman and child in Pakistan.

Kate Allen

Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2

French assistants alive and kicking

Your readers may be interested to know that the "old-fashioned French assistants" scheme (report, 16 February), is very much alive and kicking. Far from schools scrapping their engagement with the scheme, more schools than ever are involved, hosting nearly 3,000 foreign language assistants this year alone. They come from 21 countries, and support the teaching of not only French, German and Spanish, but also Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic in UK schools. Learning a foreign language is vitally important in helping our young people build the skills and understanding to become global citizens, ready and able to take up jobs in the international economy.

The Language Assistants programme is administered by the British Council on behalf of the DCSF and the education departments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And the monthly allowance for one foreign language assistant, who can be shared by up to three schools, is £840 a month, so is very good value for money.

Joan Hoggan

Project Manager, Language Assistants, British Council, London SW1

Jacobson and Gaza: Criticism of the brutality is not 'anti-Semitism'

Howard Jacobson's hysterical piece (Opinion, 18 February) that seeks to equate all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, made me very angry. He objects to the use of the words "massacre" and "slaughter" in reference to the killing of 400 Palestinian children by Israeli tanks, missiles, bombs and bullets, with his opinion that "it is in the nature of modern war". As a former professional soldier with four years on active service, I can categorically inform him, it is not. The British Army, the US Army, or any other army, do not, to my knowledge, deliberately kill children on the pretext of "self-defence".

I, and many, many other British Jews, have given repeated, and documented, warnings to the London Jewish Chronicle and elsewhere, of the dangers of the Board of Deputies of British Jews allying itself so closely and unwisely with Israel's brutal treatment as an occupying force in the Palestinian territories. That overt alliance, together with the millions of pounds sent every year to Israel by Jewish charities, virtually ensures the inevitability of anti-Israeli feelings being extended to those in Britain who so clearly, and sometimes, it must be said, arrogantly support the Israeli government agenda.

There was nothing in Howard Jacobson's article that indicated one shred of remorse that 400 Palestinian children should be killed as a reprisal for the rockets of Hamas. Nothing. That, tragically, is the attitude that contributes to the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Britain and thereby also endangers those of us, within British Jewry, to whom political Zionism is anathema. Zionism is not, and never was, a synonym for Judaism.

Michael Halpern

Westbourne, Dorset

I commend you for publishing the article by Howard Jacobsen. It is more than overdue that we realise anti-Semitism for what it is, that we know what is really true about Gaza and every other matter to do with Israel and Jews, and if we do not know we find out.

We British believe what we are fed and now we are just as brain-washed as the poor Palestinian children. We have swallowed the same spirit which rules Hamas. I am not Jewish but I have taken the time to find out the truth. Would that the media would present facts. Thank you for making a start.

Emilie Bruell

Arundel, West Sussex

By trying to confuse genuine moral outrage with secret anti-Semitism and by drawing the cloak of Jewish victimhood over Israeli atrocities in Gaza, Howard Jacobson reveals the full intellectual bankruptcy of his tired old arguments.

If people deliberately do hateful things, particularly if hundreds of innocent women and children are maimed and killed as a result, other more civilised people will have every reason and every right to loathe and despise the aggressors. This expression of outrage is one of the basic ways in which standards of civilised behaviour are maintained.

In the 21st century, political attempts to maintain ethnic purity and claim exclusive rights to territory on the basis of history, race and religion can no longer be regarded as acceptable. We know where that road leads. As for the Churchill play, it sounds like blatant agitprop, but just look at the Old Testament and you will read how the ancient historical Jewish occupation of this territory was carried out in a welter of racism, ethnic cleansing, slaughter and genocide: all supposedly sanctioned by their own private God and on the understanding that the Jews were the chosen race, this was their promised land and the others didn't matter.

Jacobson should be ashamed of himself for allowing his partisanship to subdue his moral sense. He should be grateful that "cosy old lazy old easy-come-easy-go England" has a history of quite violent "criticism" of political fascism in all its forms.

Rob Brownell

Colchester, Essex


Apostrophes pay off

St John does not only have a "home", but also an income (letters, 18 February. My bank account used to show regular payments to St John the Baptist when I was a tenant of St John's College, Oxford. Presumably, this was to ensure there was no chance of it being diverted to St John the Evangelist in Cambridge.

Jennifer Phillips

London W11

Profiting from porn

Too late for the research which reveals pornographic images turn women into commodified objects in the minds of men (report, 17 February), and deduces that sexualised images in the media and advertising can dehumanise women. There has been an official policy of liberalisation for the availability of such images in the past decade. The only people for whom this research is beneficial are those who wish to exploit such images further, for financial gain.

Mike Bor

(Principal Examiner, BBFC, 1993-2000, London W2

Now you see it...

We were regularly informed that when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, he was such a control freak, that nothing went on in the Treasury without his knowledge or authorisation. Now that he's our Prime Minister and many faultlines are being found in Treasury control and information systems during his time, we are told Mr Brown was never informed and was totally oblivious to what was happening. Both claims can't be right, can they?

Malcolm Wild

North Shields, Tyne & Wear

Err, yes

"Trade accuracy for brevity and you get a telling mistake" says the headline on the "Errors & Omissions" column (14 February). A laudable sentiment, unfortunately betrayed by the final paragraph. Sammy Wilson is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, not "an Ulster minister", even "for headline purposes".

Joe O'Farrell

Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow

Bags of nonsense

Does The Independent seriously expect its readers to be interested in "The Ten Best Designer Handbags", priced from £328 to £1,527, or should we admire your attempts to validate them? How about "The Ten Best Redundancy Packages" next?

Janette Davies