More than half a million people in the UK have Alzheimer’s disease and that figure is expected to rise in the years ahead. The need to tackle an issue that impacts on so many people is there to see, especially given that its influence extends far beyond those that are directly affected.
Raising awareness and challenging the stigma that surrounds dementia is a key aspect of World Alzheimer's Month, staged every September. Launched in 2012, the annual event uses actions across the world to highlight key issues, while World Alzheimer's Day on 21 September stands as a particular focus for attention.
The organisation behind the initiative is Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and their core belief is that the key to winning the fight against dementia lies in a unique combination of global solutions and local knowledge. This means that healthcare professionals around the world, no matter where they are, can play a vital role is combating one of the most pernicious diseases of current times.
One of the main reasons that Alzheimer’s is in the headlines so often these days is that people are generally living longer lives. Of course, this is great news for many, but it also means that an increasing number of people are coming into contact with the effects of the disease, either because it impacts them directly or through needing to care for someone. Medical professionals from many disciplines have to deal with the day-to-day effects of the condition, but for the wider community awareness still needs to be raised.
By empowering Alzheimer associations to promote and offer care and support for people with dementia and their carers on a local basis, the ADI is playing an important role in the fight. Having a globally coordinated and promoted awareness Month and Day brings the issue into the open in a positive way and also highlights the serious implications on services and health systems that a lack of action will undoubtedly have.
The changing age demographic in the UK is already putting a strain on healthcare services and the challenge of adapting to new needs and requirements is one that is proving difficult for Government and frontline staff alike to come to terms with. By educating people about Alzheimer’s Disease, a proactive approach can be adopted that looks into everything from lifestyle changes that can lessen the chances of developing the condition through to processes that can improve the quality of life for both sufferers and carers.
Every era has a defining health issue and right now Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia are at the top of the agenda. As has happened in the past, there is the capacity to rise to the challenge and makes the changes that are necessary, but this will require 'joined up thinking' and an increased awareness of the situation.