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TX: 01.03.10 - Dementia

PRESENTER: JULIAN WORRICKER
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WORRICKER
Now people with dementia have a life - that's the message being put across in a campaign called Living Well, which was launched this morning. A series of radio and TV adverts will be aimed at reducing the stigma associated with the condition. An IPSOS Mori poll on behalf of the Department of Health and the Alzheimer's Society in February found that one in three people are uncomfortable around people with dementia. And this at a time when the number of people with the illness and other dementias currently stands at over 820,000 - a figure predicted to rise to more than a million over the next 10 years.

Well Alistair Burns is the new national clinical director for dementia and will lead the government's £150 million dementia strategy and joins me now. Can you explain exactly what your role involves?

BURNS
My overall role is to improve the care of people with dementia and their carers. We know dementia is a really serious and growing problem for hundreds and thousands of people as well as their carers. It is a complex disease because it spans both health and social care. That's why last year the government launched an ambitious national dementia strategy to transform the lives of people with dementia. My specific job is to take forward the strategy's key recommendations. I'll be conducting the first audit of dementia services across the country, I also want to improve local leadership and will be working with the NHS and care home sector to help ensure there's a clinical lead in all local hospitals and stronger leadership in care homes.

WORRICKER
And within the role how critical of government are you able to be if you feel that is appropriate?

BURNS
I'm starting the role on the 1st April and I think it's fair to say that dementia is a problem for us all. We know that the numbers are increasing, we know that the costs up to £8 billion is spent in health and social care and I think the opportunities are there for real improvements and I'm confident with the national dementia strategy that over the next five years we can make a real difference to the lives of people with dementia.

WORRICKER
But the point I'm getting at is if you decide that there simply isn't enough money in the coffers to do the job properly are you in a position to say to government this is not enough?

BURNS
I think in terms of the money that's available, as I said, there's £8 billion and I think the issue is to use that money as wisely and as appropriately as we can.

WORRICKER
Okay. I want to break in and then come back to you, if I may, in a moment because obviously there was this launch this morning and my colleague, Carolyn Atkinson, has been there and she's been talking to some people with dementia and finding out specifically what music does for them.

ACTUALITY - LAUNCH

MUSIC AND SINGING

ATKINSON
Well I'm at the launch of the Living Well campaign, where else but in a nightclub. With me is Helena Muller from the Lost Chord charity, which is a charity that uses music to promote well being amongst people with dementia. Helena you're making some very bold claims about music and singing and dancing and what it can do for people with dementia, what evidence is there for that?

MULLER
Well there's been some well chronicled research in Sweden whereby they have proved that music, and in particular singing, has helped dementia sufferers perform without the prompts that were previously necessary in their morning ablutions like combing their hair and brushing their teeth, they've been able to do it themselves without having somebody helping them, with the aid of singing.

ATKINSON
And you're saying that you've witnessed in all the sessions that you run around in the Midlands and the North of England mainly that people have suddenly started speaking after not speaking and doing things that they just haven't done before.

MULLER
Absolutely, it happens all the time, people suddenly start to speak and they've never spoken before in months and the reason for this is they've given up and somehow the music gets right through and they're able then to communicate when they've never been able to communicate before.

ATKINSON
Barbara, now you've got a bit of a different ...

BARBARA
Musical background.

ATKINSON
... you've got a bit of a musical background, your husband's in an orchestra, but what do you find that music actually helps you in terms of your dementia?

BARBARA
Oh god I couldn't live without it, I would go much more demented or depressed or top myself - music. And I'm talking mostly about symphony music and singing. It's just essential to my life.

ATKINSON
Peter, you also have dementia and you're less convinced by this argument aren't you because this whole Living Well campaign is all about the early stages and that people can have lives, do you think there's a sort of element of this that some people might think this is actually quite flip and the cruelty of the disease is being overlooked here?

PETER
I think to some extent you've got to be careful, it could become a little patronising. I love music. When I was diagnosed in 2000, that's 10 years ago believe it or not, I was a very talented pianist and organist. I still love music of course but I can't play a note. My hands go on the keyboard and I can't do anything. So music has worked a bit against me in some respects, although I listen to all the concerts and so on. The thing I'm concerned about is challenging the intellectual side of the brain and the thing that's really kept me going and allows me to articulate my feelings is the fact that I've intellectually challenged myself over the last 10 years.

ATKINSON
And Dorothy you also have dementia, do you feel that this is a tool that's helpful to you in terms of the singing and the music that you do or do you think actually you're more concerned about thinking about the long term effects and the fact that you know the fact remains there is still no cure for dementia?

DOROTHY
I think it's very helpful with the music and the things that we have because at the moment, as you say, there's no cure but hopefully in the future there will be but meanwhile if you're singing and doing things that you enjoy then you're happy.

MUSIC

WORRICKER
Carolyn Atkinson reporting from that launch.

Alistair Burns is still with me - the new national clinical director for dementia. What we've just heard, Alistair Burns, is of course important but it's not the whole story is it? I've had one e-mail here from Elisabeth Morley who says: "As well as what we've just heard people need to be shown the later stages of dementia otherwise it will not be taken seriously except by those who already really know."

BURNS
I think that's absolutely right and by looking at the campaign one of the issues that we were addressing specifically was to look at the stigma and that's one of the three parts of the national dementia strategy. And with this particular campaign - Living Well - we want to show that with the right support people can continue to do things they enjoy and so in a sense try to challenge some of the stereotypes and to decrease the stigma felt by people. But that's not to downplay the illness, not to downplay the significance of it in anyway and clearly as a patient goes through - a person goes through the journey of dementia from that diagnosis things will change.

WORRICKER
And a brief thought, if you would, on nursing care and the provision of nursing care provided by experts in Alzheimer's not nurses who have a general expertise but not a specific one.

BURNS
I think one of the things that we need to do is that I'm confident that with greater public understanding of dementia alongside training of health and social care staff that we will improve all aspects of a person's journey and certainly some of the aspects of the training that you've mentioned are extremely important and that is one of the objectives in the national dementia strategy.

WORRICKER
Okay, we must leave it there. Thank you very much indeed Alistair Burns.

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