Alzheimers is high on the public agenda, getting air time (rightfully so) from the press and with 435,000 diagnosed with dementia, compared to 250,000 in 2009, it feels like progress. Or does it?
I am not a doctor, I am a recruiter but I am also a human being, as fragile as the next man and with family and friends that I care deeply about. You’ll read far more informative reports on dementia but I want to address and express my view on why we are taking a step back in terms of diagnosis and support for sufferers of dementia.
Alzheimers is a disease that has no cure, over time it kills all those suffering with it and affects everyone, from the person diagnosed to their friends and family. Early diagnosis is key because it helps to plan for the inevitable and in my experience it's often the friends and family that see symptoms early and benefit also from diagnosis. Planning whilst you can, having that degree of control and appreciating what you have in that moment cannot be underestimated or “costed”.
So, why are doctors commenting on too many patients being left in limbo, undiagnosed and lacking support? Left hanging in the balance, unaware of what their symptoms are and how to move forwards. I’m a cynical guy and whilst I am open to changing my view I sense that the reason we are not seeing more enthusiasm and investment from the government to diagnose those suffering from dementia is because to support them costs money and as things stand Alzheimers has no cure.
With no financial gain we seem content to let ourselves down, that is inhumane. Is there something I’ve missed? What do we do, how can we change this?
Dr Gary Wannan, chairman of the BMA's community care committee, and a psychiatrist in Kensington, Central London, said: “As a doctor you feel very responsible in giving a diagnosis, and you want to make sure in giving anyone a diagnosis, it's going to be to their benefit. There's no point in giving someone a label, but then not being able to provide support.” The leading doctors said too many patients were being left in a state of limbo after being told they might have dementia, with long waits to see a specialist and little support from social services. Dr Vautrey said: “You would never tolerate it in any other area of medicine. If you were to diagnose someone with cancer, you wouldn't say, 'Well, sorry, but we're not going to treat your cancer,'” he said.