Livewire - March 28, 2012

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By Paul Maynard, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP

Come rain or shine, I have made a point these last two years of joining the local Alzheimers Society on their sponsored walk round Stanley Park.

The walk isn’t just to raise funds and awareness, but to march for memory, and for human dignity.

Dementia is the cruelest of diseases. It robs us of our identity, changes who we are, and can leave us unrecognisable to friends and family.

A land which few can peer into, but which so very many stare out of without being able to demand the quality of care we might otherwise expect. In a society where we have seen too many examples of ‘care without dignity’, it is important we never forget how important that human dignity is.

We don’t need to be political to welcome the launch by the Prime Minister of the National Dementia Challenge.

Our common humanity demands it. The report calls for a radical shift in the way society treats people with dementia to ensure they receive the support and respect they deserve.

In the report, people with dementia spoke of difficulties maintaining control over daily life, spending time with friends and family, socialising or enjoying hobbies as they used to. They felt this arose from a lack of understanding of dementia, rather than as a result of the condition itself.

Over three quarters of people in the North West feel society is not geared up to deal with dementia, according to the report. Three in five diagnosed with dementia are left feeling lonely, four in five feel anxious or depressed and nearly half have lost friends.

A quarter of hospital beds are already occupied by someone with dementia.

The total cost of the disease is around £19 billion – higher than the costs of cancer, heart disease or stroke.

In less than 10 years, as we all live longer lives, the number of sufferers will reach a million.

I am really pleased that the Government is stepping up with £66 million of funding. Dementia is a ticking timebomb with 1.7 million people predicted to be suffering from the disease by 2051.

Here in Blackpool and Cleveleys we have the highest numbers of people living in a household where someone has a long term health problem. I know from my surgeries just how many involve dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society calls for a radical shift in the way society treats people with dementia to ensure they receive the support and respect they deserve – and who could disagree?