Dementia concern raised

HEALTH minister Ben Bradshaw has raised his concern about care services for people with dementia.

Mr Bradshaw said he realised for many ""diagnosis was difficult, care could be patchy"" and, without adequate support, families of people with the condition could be placed under stress.

His comments follow a report in The Exmouth Journal last month in which the chairman of the town's Alzheimer's Society branch said he wanted more awareness raised to benefit people, including future carers and relatives.

There are more than 12,000 people in Devon registered with dementia - a condition regarded by a senior figure from Help the Aged as 'the hidden epidemic of the 21st century'.

Speaking to the Journal, Mr Bradshaw said: ""In an ageing society, caring for people with the condition is one of the most important challenges we face.

""I know that for many people diagnosis can be difficult, care can be patchy and, without adequate support, families can be under huge stress. All that must change.""

Dementia causes the loss of mental abilities such as being able to think and remember. Symptoms can also include changes in personality, mood and behaviour.

In February, the Department of Health launched the first ever national dementia strategy.

The five-year Government plan explains what needs to happen to improve the quality of life for people with the condition and their carers.

Mr Bradshaw, who said the strategy would help improve care services, added: ""Key to this [strategy] is a commitment to appoint dementia advisors in hospitals and care homes.

""We also plan to train GPs to recognise better the early symptoms and be able to refer people to specialists who can give an effective diagnosis.

""NHS organisations, including those in the South West, are working together with the Alzheimer's Society, users and carers to audit and assess the level of provision in each local authority area.""

Jenny Richards, joint strategic planning and commissioning manager for older people's mental health in Devon, said: ""The strategy's clear objectives will be addressed as a priority.

""We are keen to ensure that we build on good practice and achieve equitable access to good quality services across Devon.""

East Devon MP Hugo Swire held a seminar at the Open Door Centre, on Church Street, Exmouth, earlier this month, to discuss challenges faced by individuals with the condition and how they may be given more help.

Meanwhile, a national dementia week will be held between May 31 and June 7 across the country.

For more information on dementia, contact the Alzheimer's Society national hotline on 0845 300 0336 0845 300 0336