When It’s Not Just a “Senior Moment”

The British government has embarked on an ad campaign encouraging early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Experts believe there is a time when people come to the realization that a family member may have a memory problem.  As a result, they are being warned to act and seek help from the Department of Health (DH), which is launching a campaign on the issue.  In the ad campaign, the government tells the story of a man in the early stages of dementia, and his daughter, who senses that she is losing her father.  It highlights the importance of contacting a primary-care physician if you have symptoms like memory loss, confusion and anxiety.  “People are afraid of dementia,” said care services minister Paul Burstow.

According to Alzheimer’s patient Derek Wilson: ”I knew that there was something wrong with me.  Rather than face the possibility someone we love has the condition, we can wrongly put memory problems down to ‘senior moments’,” he said.  “Don’t wait until a crisis.  Being diagnosed with dementia won’t make the condition worse, but leaving it untreated will.”

Approximately 820,000 Britons have Alzheimer’s, out of a population of roughly 62 millionIt is estimated that six out of 10 people with dementia have not been diagnosed in the United Kingdom. In other words, nearly 400,000 people could need help from the National Health Service (NHS) and are not getting it.  According to Burstow, “But if we are worried, the sooner we discuss it and help the person seek support the better.  Don’t wait until a crisis.  Being diagnosed with dementia won’t make the condition worse but leaving it untreated will.”

Family members typically first notice problems when they visit relatives over Christmas, prompting a big increase in calls to the Alzheimer’s Society’s helpline. Last January it had a 43 percent increase, chief executive Jeremy Hughes said.  “It’s when you see someone you perhaps haven’t seen for a while that you can see the difference.  If their memory is going, if they’re getting confused, if they have sudden mood changes, that’s the time to say ‘maybe you should see your doctor’.”

The £2 million campaign is print, television and radio.  According to DH estimates, every general hospital has cost overruns of £6 million because of dementia, a result of the worse outcomes for length of stay, mortality and institutionalization. Better management of patients with hip fractures who also have dementia could save between £64 million and £102 million in England every year.  Professor Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia at the DH, said.  “Timely early diagnosis and supportive interventions allow people to plan for the future while they still can.  They have been shown to reduce care home admissions and improve the quality, not only of the life of the person with dementia, but also their family, caregivers and friends.”

Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, agreed that the ability to diagnose dementia is ‘crucial’ to providing effective treatment.  According to Ridley, “Although people may be fearful of the worst, a diagnosis can empower them to access the right treatments and support to preserve independence.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply