Letters: Treating dementia

Dementia and the 'liquid cosh' dilemma
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I applaud Jeremy Laurance for his article (17 November) drawing attention to the perils of withdrawing anti-psychotic drugs from dementia patients.

Advances in medical science allowing more people to avoid or survive heart disease, stroke and cancer mean that many more people will end their lives with dementia. It is unacceptable that care-home residents with dementia are routinely drugged to keep them quiet. However, it also unacceptable that care-home residents without dementia have to suffer broken nights and constant interruptions during the day from cries, shouts and other challenging behaviour from their neighbours with dementia.

Many care-homes are now privately run, and presumably hope to make a profit. Those funded largely by social services payments (currently less than £400 per resident per week in this area) must struggle to provide even basic care to their residents, unless they are able to charge their self-funding residents more to make up the shortfall. Where do they find spare money for special dementia care?

Without more government funding, extra care for dementia residents is just a dream. This is not only bad news for the dementia sufferers, but for all residents in the same care homes, and for the dedicated and over-worked managers and staff trying to work miracles on a shoestring.

Angela Comer

Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Ashton's costly free-market creed

Following the election of Catherine Ashton to the post of European Foreign Minister, I was curious to find out what kind of person she is, and so have been trawling through past speeches of hers.

They are littered with the words "freedom", "democracy" and "openness", and she is convinced that the EU and US should hold together as they push through the free-market goals of the WTO and the G20 to bring down trade barriers. Indeed, she is convinced that "Open markets deliver huge benefits for both the EU and the US . . . in terms of opportunities for business and greater choice for consumers," and she believes that open markets will "allow the developing world to continue to lift its citizens out of poverty through the dignity of their own labour and the genius of their own ideas".

I do ask myself whether she has forgotten a few "inconvenient truths".

EU agricultural and other subsidies allow EU companies to dump their subsidised products on developing economies, thereby destroying local economies and generating hunger, hardship and migration.

Shoes and other items of clothing are produced for just a few cents and then sold for a great multiple of their production cost in western shops. We need to ask ourselves whether this is trade or slavery.

The cherry which crowns this heap of contradictions is the fact that the "openness" applies only to goods and not to people. Tragedies occur every day in northern Africa, where people whose livelihoods have been undermined by globalisation desperately try to get to Europe but either die on the razor-wire around the Spanish enclaves, drown on their way to Italy or are dumped in the Libyan desert. Those who do make it across are then the sans papiers who toil in (for example) the tomato plantations in Andalusia.

Alan Searle

Cologne, Germany

Your profile of new EU "foreign minister" Baroness Ashton, (20 November) overlooks one interesting aspect of her career.

In the late 1970s she worked as an administrator for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). This was not merely a job without commitment, for she was subsequently elected as CND national treasurer and later vice-chair of CND, at the time of the Euro-missile nuclear crisis in 1983. Thus she probably becomes the first former staff member of CND to hold such a high diplomatic position. I think this is an excellent background for her new post.

Her appointment as EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security could send an important new signal to the US and Russia about the role the EU could play in the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament negotiations in Washington DC in March (a special non-proliferation forum organised by President Obama) and New York in May next year (the five-yearly Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty review conference).

On Wednesday the Queen said in her speech to open the new session of Parliament: "My Government will work towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons." This is an aspiration shared with President Obama, which contributed to him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Baroness Ashton is now in a key position to covert this aspiration into reality.

Dr David Lowry

Stoneleigh, Surrey

Nobody's ever heard of me. Does that mean I'm qualified to chair the EU?

Sarah Pegg

Seaford, East Sussex

Selfish lunacy on the roads

M McDougall (letter, 19 November) had to wait a week to witness two incidents of cyclist lunacy. As a cyclist and pedestrian I have only to wait minutes. If I walk to the shops and back, I'll witness corner cutting, lack of indication, mobile phone use, speeding, parking violations, swinging doors into traffic and general boorish behaviour. Many motorists attempt combinations of these infractions that defy credulity .

At the same time I'm fully aware that plenty of cyclists and pedestrians are grossly deficient in their consideration of other road users: riding on the pavement, unannounced manoeuvrings, jaywalking, sauntering on pedestrian crossings and so on.

What I note is that some people often treat others with disdain and contempt regardless of their means of transport. The idea that this is a motorist-cyclist dichotomy is nonsense. The issue is a culture that allows people to believe that they should be able to do whatever they please, though it may cause injury or inconvenience to others, and often themselves. This is what allows some motorists to believe that they are perfectly safe to exceed the speed limit if they see fit. It's what allows some cyclists to think it safe to wear headphones.

If there is a dividing line, it is that of capability, power and mass . The speed and weight of motor vehicles makes them capable of doing radically more damage, in the hands of an inconsiderate road user, than a bicycle. Hence their stricter regulation.

Conor Caulfield

London NW10

When I cycle in the dark, out of self-preservation I dress up like a fluorescent Christmas tree. But when I see unlit dark-clothed cyclists, I feel grateful to them.

Their sudden and unpredictable appearance makes drivers uncertain, and, if encountered often enough, may shave a few miles per hour from their driving speed. This benefits other vulnerable road-users such as pedestrians and horse-riders, as well as cyclists, and probably reduces total death and injury rates.

John Rees

Thrupp, Gloucestershire

Welcome Israelis into Palestine

Colin Nevin thinks it is unfair that some Arabs live legally in Israel as citizens, but Israelis who have colonised the West Bank are deemed to be "illegal" (letter, 17 November). He is also concerned that the Palestinian state, if formed, may not admit Jews.

I agree completely. The Israeli colonists in the West Bank should be offered Palestinian citizenship. They will provide a useful leavening to Palestinian society, enriching and broadening its culture and stimulating its economy and politics, as the Israeli Arabs do in Israel. They will, of course, be subject to Palestinian laws, planning regulations, taxes, and (possibly) conscription; but that should pose no problem, if their desire to live in their adopted country is genuine. Or they can return to Israel.

Robert Sather

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Kate Moss is right about obesity

Your leader on Kate Moss's comment that "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" does miss the point (20 November).

Poor health, whether from anorexia or obesity, is not desirable. But what is also true is that obesity is set to be the killer of many while anorexia is the killer of a few. The costs to the National Health Service of the obesity epidemic is already far in excess of anorexia.

Kate should be commended not castigated for stating the fact that she enjoys being slim to the extent that she would moderate her eating to achieve it. When will the media start to be as critical of the many obese media role models, including talk-show hosts, who portray their obese lifestyle as a fun and acceptable mode of behaviour, when in reality it is encouraging the early death of millions.

Steve Horsfield

Hoby, Leicestershire

No quick way out of Afghanistan

Those looking for an early end to the Afghanistan war are in for a disappointment. Even if today a decision was made to end the war, it would take two to three years to extract the 110,000 US, Nato and UN troops and their equipment.

The US is in the process of leaving Iraq. The draw-down started in late 2008 and there will be a struggle to get all its assets out by the end of 2011. The Iraq draw-down can be accomplished on new highways leading to Kuwait which are reserved for the use of the US forces. Also there is no shortage of air bases.

The only certain road route out of Afghanistan is over the Khyber Pass to the port of Karachi. It is under threat of attack in both Afghanistan and the tribal areas of northern Pakistan. Also it is clogged with commercial and private vehicles. The number of airfields in Afghanistan which can support large cargo aircraft is limited.

Even taking into consideration that much of the military equipment and supplies can be left to the Afghan army and police, the drawn-down will take years, unless it is decided to leave the sands of Afghanistan like the beaches of Dunkirk – littered with abandoned military equipment and supplies.

If the requested 30-40,000 troops are sent, it will be impossible to end the war by the time of the presidential election of 2012. No wonder President Obama is a worried man.

George D Lewis

Brackely, Northamptonshire

Whenever I read letters such as that from Mark Foster (19 November) urging that "we stop trying to impose our western values on those who have no use or respect for them", I wonder how the writers react to reports of raped 13-year-olds stoned to death for adultery, acid thrown into the faces of schoolgirls carrying books, women beaten for going out of doors uncovered or homosexuals strung up in public squares.

Frank Startup

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

GM invasion

Does your opposition to GM crops that "allow farmers to soak the land in chemicals" (leading article, 19 November) also apply to South America, where GM soya is grown and then imported into the UK, unknown to consumers, as animal feed?

Anthony Jackson

The Black Isle, Scotland

Desert war

East is East and West is West. I read with great interest your article on the then forthcoming Egypt versus Algeria football match (18 November). However, while Algeria is in the Maghrib (the place in the West), Egypt is in the Mashriq (the place in the East). I used to be criticised by the sports editor on the Egyptian Gazette for my divided loyalties as I had previously lived in Algeria. If a point of the compass is required, I would suggest that both teams are North African.

Sumiya Mann

Batley, West Yorkshire

Obscure comfort

Gordon Brown has not had the easiest ride as Prime Minister. But whatever slings and arrows are hurled at him in the run-up to the next election, he can at least take heart from one small but incontrovertible fact. His handwriting is no more illegible than Abraham Lincoln's ("I met Abraham Lincoln – and here's the proof", 19 November).

Rob Prince

London SE13

Challenge to faith

Mike Godsell (Letter, 11 November) writes that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown "is one of precious few honest Muslims who express the paradox and confusion of holding within themselves both respect for western values and adherence to the Muslim faith. She eloquently expresses the agony of trying to hold two mutually incompatible ways of thinking inside one mind." Fine words, and no one surely can argue with them. But substitute "Christian", or any other faith group, and the same sentiment would hold.

Richard Carter

London SW15

What's in a name

I once left an answering machine message asking to be called back. The call was returned by someone asking to speak to Mr McStubble.

Max Double

Amesbury, Wiltshire