The current care pathway for people with dementia is “confusing, awful” and “an unnavigable mess”, Sube Banerjee, the joint lead on the government’s national dementia strategy, said last week.
Banerjee told Community Care’s conference on dementia and dignity that the current system made it much easier not to be diagnosed than to be diagnosed.
He added: “Only a third of people are diagnosed and for most of them it happens too late. For me, diagnosis unlocks the whole system.”
Reasons behind this include the stigma around dementia and the idea that it is a normal part of ageing. “And there is a belief that nothing can be done which stops people seeking or offering help,” he added. “It’s perfectly possible to live miserably with dementia in this country whatever the severity, but it’s also possible to live well with severe dementia.”
The dementia strategy, published last month, included plans to provide everyone with dementia with an early diagnosis and intervention to tackle the condition, through the establishment of memory clinics by primary care trusts.
The conference also heard about the need to boost dementia research.
Dr Lorna Laywood, senior research manager at Help the Aged’s research arm, Research into Ageing, said: “The UK spend on dementia research is only 3% of what is spent on cancer research. What we need to aspire to is preventing dementia but we don’t even talk about.”