DORIS DALY: Campaigner for the elderly in Camden and Westminster

PUBLISHED: 10:38 19 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:57 07 September 2010

With a fanfare of hype and spin, the Strategy to Improve Dementia Care Nationwide was unveiled last week with a conference to follow next Wednesday. Having labelled the consultative documents presented at the first conference as piffle padding and procra

With a fanfare of hype and spin, the Strategy to Improve Dementia Care Nationwide was unveiled last week with a conference to follow next Wednesday.

Having labelled the consultative documents presented at the first conference as "piffle padding and procrastination" in this column, the recommendations hold out the same promises - a repetition of doublespeak dressed up in emotive oratory and officialese. There is no doubt, they talk a good game!

One of the proposals made by Health Secretary Alan Johnston is to "put a Memory Clinic in every major town staffed by doctors and nurses to provide behavioural therapy for the demented and to help carers

to cope".

With no less than 17 recommendations, another being that "more people visit their GP to seek diagnosis earlier", it will take some delivering.

How this early diagnosis will be achieved within the present culture of a "next-please-service" and a seven-minute consultation with a doctor followed by a mass referral to the memory clinic singular, is singularly risible.

This notion, for that is what it is - a notion, is as useful as a plaster on a gaping wound.

There are more than 700,000 persons in Britain now suffering from dementia and the One Clinic strategy just cannot meet the demand for their care.

The said clinic, singular, will provide among other things behavioural therapy. This is effective in treating those with i.e. learning difficulties.

But anyone who has had to care for a demented person will soon realise that when reasoning is lost, as is one of the symptoms of dementia, behavioural therapy will not be remembered beyond the short span of retention the demented are capable of.

Another recommendation, the retraining of GPs on how to spot the early signs of dementia, is like teaching granny how to suck eggs?

Surely medical students have this training as a module of their curriculum? If not, why not?

The members of The Geriatric Society specialise in the study of the ageing process in human kind - but why has dementia not been high on their agenda? There is no mention of the disease in their conference 2009 brochure. Is it because there is no mileage in treating the demented?

Of course if diagnosis and medication were available at the onset it might slow down the progression of the disease.

Considering that there are several types of dementia, a cure-all tablet would not serve all.

The side effects of those drugs, the short span of time of their effectiveness and, of course, the costs are a major consideration, which is why they are not too readily prescribed.

If the drug houses were paid only on results, they would up their game in research.

As it is, they peddle their wares for mega profits and, like street traders, without a guarantee.

There are several types of dementia, for example, vascular dementia, Pick's disease and Alzheimer's disease, all presenting a very different onset and symptoms. A cure for one would not necessarily be a cure for the other.

So medication has to be specific, apart from being effective, not just another expensive stop gap to take the pressure off those who provide health care.

Without research, there will be no progress in finding a cure nor in finding preventative medicine.

The race is on for a cure but there are too many participants in the field striving to pip each other at the post.

The money for research is therefore spread too thinly over the plethora in the field and the post moves further away.

However the good news is that the latest research into a cure, has found and isolated a toxic protein in the blood stream that may be the cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Experiments on rats showed that the liver could successfully filter out this material.

Research takes time and money so this information, although hopeful, is not helpful in the here and now.

But it is hope for a brighter day on the dark horizon of despair.


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