Tracey is supporting Doctors in west Kent who are appealing to the friends and families of older people to be dementia aware so they can help their loved ones get an early diagnosis.
As the population ages, dementia is becoming more common. It is estimated that 6,364 people in west Kent have the condition. The latest data, from March 2015, show 3,547 have been diagnosed.
To mark Dementia Awareness Week, from 18 to 24 May, NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has worked with other NHS organisations in Kent and Kent County Council to produce a magazine, Dementia Focus, to help people with dementia and their family carers find out about care and support available locally.
Look out for a copy at your GP surgery, pharmacist, and some retail outlets, including supermarkets.
The CCG is also encouraging families and close friends of people showing early signs, such as memory loss, confusion, repetition and difficulty with everyday tasks such as handling money, to urge their loved one to see their GP.
Dr David Chesover, the CCG’s clinical lead for mental health and dementia, said: “As we get older, we can all be a bit forgetful sometimes.
“But if your mum, dad, husband, wife, partner or friend finds it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes, frequently loses the thread of what they are saying, finds it hard to make decisions or deal with numbers, or gets flustered doing ordinary tasks such as making a cup of tea, encourage them to talk to their doctor.
“It can be hard to bring up the subject but try to have an honest conversation. Ask them if they have any worries about their memory. If they don’t want to discuss it, let it drop but come back to it at a different time, when you think it is a good moment. You could offer to go to the GP with them – it can really help to have someone with you at what can be a stressful time.
“People can feel very frightened of admitting they may have a problem and some may do everything they can to avoid talking about it or seeking medical help.
“But diagnosis is vital because it means that the person with dementia can access the support and care that they need, in addition to appropriate treatment. It also means that the person with dementia – and their family – can start to prepare and plan for the years ahead.”
Dementia is most common in people over the age of 65, although a small number (2.2 per cent of the population) will develop dementia below this age.
Initiatives in the NHS West Kent CCG area to raise awareness, improve diagnosis rates and provide better support to people with dementia and their carers, include:
•A crisis service to support people with dementia to remain in their home and avoid a hospital admission if possible
•Work with partners in the voluntary sector to make communities more dementia-friendly
•The development of a ‘dementia roadmap’, a website, aimed primarily at GPs, which contains local information on services for people with dementia and their carers
•Work to diagnose people living in nursing or care homes whose symptoms may have been missed.
Tracey said, “I fully support this initiative, I have been working on dementia for over 5 years now and I have seen huge progress both nationally and locally. It is now possible for people to live well with dementia for a long time with an earlier diagnosis and the right support in place. Friends and family helping to identify the disease through early intervention is key to receiving earlier diagnosis and is a vital part of ensuring that people get the support that they need. I would urge anyone who is concerned about a loved one to contact their GP and get it checked."
Useful contacts and further information:
•24-hour freephone support line for people with dementia and their carers in Kent and Medway: 0800 500 3014.
•Alzheimer’s Society: www.alzheimers.org.uk and national helpline 0300 222 1122 (usually open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturday).
•Alzheimer’s Society Maidstone: 01622 747181, firstname.lastname@example.org
•Alzheimer’s Society Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, and West Malling: 01892 559410 email@example.com
•Maidstone and Malling Carers Project, 01622 685276, firstname.lastname@example.org
•Carers First (Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Cranbrook) 0300 303 1555, email@example.com
•Crossroads Care West Kent: 0845 900 3735, www.carerskm.org
•NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk/dementia
•Look out for more information on the CCG’s website, www.westkentccg.nhs.uk and Twitter feed, @NHSWestKentCCG