Health

Dementia awareness boost planned for over-40s

  • 6 March 2016
  • From the section Health
doctor with patient discussing results Image copyright Thinkstock

People over 40 in England are to be given more information about dementia to help improve early diagnosis of the condition, the health secretary said.

During their free NHS health check, patients will be told when they should report memory problems to their GP.

Jeremy Hunt said the government's aim was for the UK to be the world's most "dementia-friendly" country by 2020.

It comes after Alzheimer's Research UK warned the condition posed a "looming national health crisis".

Under the plans, there is a new aim for 10% of all people diagnosed with dementia to take part in research to try to improve diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will also include standards of dementia care in their inspections while current information on which regions are good at diagnosing the condition will be strengthened with Ofsted-style ratings.

Mr Hunt said seven-day services would also improve for dementia patients in hospitals in England, with patients in high dependency care seen and reviewed by a consultant twice a day, every day of the week, by 2020.


What is dementia?

  • Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK, resulting in the loss of brain cells
  • The most common type is Alzheimer's disease
  • Early symptoms include problems with memory and thinking
  • As the disease progresses, people can experience difficulty with walking, balance and swallowing
  • Getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia
  • Experts predict one in three people born in 2015 will develop dementia

How to spot dementia in a loved one

Could lifestyle hold answer to dementia?

Living at home with memory problems


Mr Hunt said: "A dementia diagnosis can bring fear and heartache, but I want Britain to be the best place in the world to live well with dementia.

"Last parliament we made massive strides on diagnosis rates and research - the global race is now on to find a cure for dementia and I want the UK to win it.

He added: "This parliament I want us to make big progress on the quality of care and treatment. Hospitals can be frightening and confusing places for people with dementia, so our new plan will guarantee them safer seven-day hospital care, as well as tackling unacceptable variations in quality across England through transparent Ofsted-style ratings."

The government has doubled research funding to £60m a year and invested £150m to develop a national Dementia Research Institute to drive forward new treatments.

It is rare to get dementia before 65, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

Between the ages of 65 and 70, one in 50 people have a form of dementia, compared to one in five people over the age of 80, with women more susceptible than men, the charity says.

Early signs of dementia can include repeatedly forgetting names, using repetitive phrases, stuttering and mispronunciation, as well as feelings of confusion in familiar situations.

Image copyright Thinkstock

George McNamara, of the Alzheimer's Society, said it was only right that people in their 40s and 50s should be given information about how to reduce the risk of dementia.

Regular exercise and a healthy, Mediterranean-type diet were "small things that can make a big difference", he told BBC News.

The Alzheimer's Society, which is aiming to stop people with dementia feeling stigmatised, has nearly 1.5 million dementia friends helping to change attitudes and offer help to sufferers across the country.

The charity's chief executive, Jeremy Hughes, said many people with dementia still faced stigma and a health care system that "simply does not work for them - resulting in emergency hospital admissions, extended stays and desperate loneliness".

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