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Chief Minister launches Dementia Awareness Week

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Chief Minister Hon Allan Bell MHK has launched a series of events today (Monday 19 May) to mark Dementia Awareness Week. 

Running from 18 – 24 May, the annual event is organised by the Alzheimer’s Society and in the Isle of Man the Department of Health and Social Care and partner agencies are supporting the initiative with a host of Island wide events to help the public learn more about the disease. 

Dementia is an umbrella name for a series of symptoms generally relating to memory loss, communicating and reasoning, and mood and behaviour.  The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for around 62% of cases, but there are thought to be over 100 different types of dementia.  Dementia is progressive which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. 

It is estimated that around 1,100 people are living with dementia in the Isle of Man.  In the UK 800,000 people have dementia with the figure expected to rise to over a million by 2021.  In 2012 it was estimated that the cost of dementia in the UK was £23 billion.  As many as one in three people over 65 will develop the condition. 

The challenge of dementia has been described as a ‘global ticking time bomb’ and has moved up the international health agenda, with work being done to improve understanding of the disease and tackle the issue, including a G8 Dementia Summit held in London late last year.  

The Chief Minister said:

'Dementia is a global challenge and the pressure to deal with the condition is being felt locally here in the Isle of Man as it is in communities around the world.  Last year saw the Island’s first ever Dementia Care Conference and through initiatives such as Dementia Awareness Week, our health and social care workers continue to highlight dementia and the support available on the Island, which I fully support.  

'A key element of Government’s Agenda for Change is protecting the vulnerable.  Locally we’ve seen significant investment in residential and day facilities for older people with mental health problems such as dementia with new units in the form of Thie Meanagh in Douglas in 2009 and Reayrt Skyal in Ramsey last year. 

'Life expectancy is continuing to increase in developed countries, including the Isle of Man, and as welcome as this is, it does pose challenges in how our community can cope with funding the growing demand for health and social services in the future.  Addressing these sorts of long term demographic challenges will not be a quick process, but recent changes such as merging health and social care into a single department and creating a Minister for Policy and Reform to drive the change agenda are part of our response to ensuring that Government is properly structured and equipped to deal with these issues.' 

Don’t bottle it up – talk about it

This year Dementia Awareness Week focuses on ways to encourage anyone who is concerned about dementia not to ‘bottle it up’ and to talk to someone about their worries. 

Dementia can be frightening both for sufferers and family and friends.  Anyone who is worried, whether about themselves or a loved one, should talk to someone, with the first port of call usually their GP. Help is at hand with care and support available to enable someone with dementia to live well with the condition.  There is also a great deal that family and friends can do in the early stages to help to make life easier and more enjoyable. 

Dr Chris Jagus, Consultant Psychiatrist said:

'The rising incidence of dementia will continue to present an increasing challenge to health and social care services, voluntary agencies, carers and society as a whole. What is required is a concerted effort in terms of education, awareness and change in attitudes and public perceptions. This, along with the provision of the necessary resources to enable the need to be met, will enable the Isle of Man to strive towards providing a comprehensive dementia-friendly society in the future.' 

Further support and information is available online at the Alzheimer’s Society’s website with factsheets such as ‘What if I have dementia?’ and ‘Understanding and respecting the person with dementia’

Julie Bennion, the Island’s Specialist in Mental Health Promotion said:

'This year, we want to get people talking about dementia – at home, at work, in the street and on the bus across the Isle of Man. We will be holding local events all over the Island and staff from the Department of Health and Social Care and partner agencies will be available at a series of drop-in sessions to advise on the condition itself and on the help and support available to those living with dementia and their carers.' 

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