The heavy toll of dementia
This amounts to 1 per cent of GDP worldwide or equivalent to the 18th-largest country in the world.The report commissioned by Alzheimer's Disease International predicted that the number of sufferers would grow to 66m in the next 20 years and up to 115m by 2050.
In Britain there are 820,000 people who have dementia, around half of these suffer with Alzheimer's. This figure is expected to double by 2050.While the dementia debate seems dominated by statistics, what must never be lost sight of is the terrible suffering it causes.
My family had to deal with dementia when my dad became a sufferer. He grew steadily worse over the years.Reading Dad's diaries after he died, it was apparent how his thought processes were breaking down as detailed chronicling of each day declined to where it was one or two points and then nothing. One particularly sad entry showed a desperate loneliness as he revealed it was getting difficult to remember things he'd done that morning.
The process of seeing your loved one transform into someone who cannot remember your name can be debilitating for all concerned.Dementia and the care needed with the illness is something that is fortunately beginning to gain more attention, though in our case there was little help for many years.When the bean-counters are throwing the numbers around, there should be a little more focus on some of the damage being done to those unpaid carers on whom the burden often falls.
In our case that was mainly my mother, who for 18 months prior to dad going into a home was the main carer. She was 80 years old at the time, in need of care herself if anything, not dealing 24 hours a day with a husband in the advanced stages of dementia.That 18 months of caring for my dad took its toll on mum. The stress no doubt contributed to her loss of eyesight, hearing and other ailments. And it is people like my mum who end up bearing the burden of the dementia time bomb.
Government does not want to pay for the condition. While you don't want the health service taking on big brother powers to remove loved ones, sometimes people need help. The system is too willing to let individuals go through their own private hell as they struggle to provide the care required.Dad finally went into a home in October 2005, the first of three before he died in August 2008.
Care homes though are another world that the dementia sufferer and carers have to endure. The whole sector has pretty much been farmed out to the privateers.There is a lack of regulation in an area that patently needs regulating. Dementia sufferers are in many cases as vulnerable as babies. The scope for abuse is immense, as was evidenced last year by a government report that found homes over-using drugs to sedate dementia patients - otherwise known as "the chemical cosh."
Care home owners see them in the main as profit centres. The staff are often on low wages, for a job that if being done properly requires a high level of expertise.A good home will seek to stimulate the dementia sufferers. They will be kept in a safe and caring environment. The worst homes are really warehouses of dementia sufferers waiting for death.
Dementia has gained a greater profile over recent years. This is no doubt due to a number of factors. First the growing number of sufferers and subsequent impact on those involved in caring and other duties.Around 25m people, or 42 per cent of the population, are affected by dementia through knowing a close friend or family member with the condition.
Second, the instances of the famous like Cliff Richard, Fiona Philipps and John Suchet having relatives affected has led to greater publicity.So there has been improvement in terms of the growing public awareness of the condition. But there is still much that needs to be done. The level of funding for research to find an answer to the disease is lamentably low compared to other conditions like cancer and heart disease.
While cancer attracts £600m a year in research funding, dementia gets just £50m.The attitude among medical practitioners to dementia needs to change. A doctor on a documentary presented by Fiona Philipps commented that you would not send a cancer patient away and say come back when the conditions worsens, which is what happens with many dementia cases.
There also needs to be a real focus on care. It should not be left to the relatives of the dementia sufferer to pick up the care duties unaided. There should be more help in the home and proper regulation of homes. All of these matters need to be addressed in order that our society can deal more humanely with the victims of dementia.
Written by Paul Donovan & first published by the Morning Star and for more of Paul Donovan's writing visit www.paulfdonovan.blogspot.com
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The number of people with dementia in Northern Ireland will almost treble in the next 40 years, according to new research.Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 16,000 people in Northern Ireland have a form of dementia — more than half have Alzheimer’s disease — but by 2051, 47,000 people will be living with dementia.
While research is ongoing in a bid to find out the cause of dementia, it is known that age is a major risk factor in developing dementia so with the growing ageing population, the number of people who develop the condition is expected to rocket in the coming decades.The Alzheimer’s Society has said that dementia services in Northern Ireland are lacking and greater support for people with the condition would help save millions of pounds each year.
A spokeswoman said: “We would like to see people get better support immediately after diagnosis. Across the whole of the UK, £20bn is spent on crisis care and unnecessary residential care so greater support and better signposting for people upon diagnosis to available services has the potential to save the health service millions of pounds every year.”
The Alzheimer’s Society is holding a flagship ‘memory walk’ on September 26 to raise funds for support services for people affected by dementia.Wilma McMurray has benefited from such support, which she said has been invaluable after her husband of 47 years Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
She said: “When he was 56, Jim was diagnosed with bowel cancer and he had an operation for it but never really recovered after that. At first they thought he was depressed but then we were told he had early onset Alzheimer’s disease.“I knew something was wrong but it was still terrible when we were told. We couldn’t believe it.” Mr McMurray’s condition deteriorated over the years and he now lives at Holywell outside Antrim.
”It was very hard when he first went in because I thought he was only going for a few days but he has been there ever since,” explained Mrs McMurray.“We were very close throughout our marriage and still are but I don’t think he knows me now. He knows I am someone important but I don’t think he knows who I am.
“I see him most days. I like to go down at lunch time and feed him. I also do his laundry as they’re the only things I can do for him now. He doesn’t speak much now, he says a few words but they don’t mean anything. My husband is there but he isn’t really. Every now and then there is a wee spark and it makes my day when there is.
“Alzheimer’s Society got involved with us in 2001 and I couldn’t have done it without them. Alzheimer’s is such a cruel disease but I go along and meet other people in the same position as me and it helps a lot.”
By the Belfast Telegraph and the Alzheimer’s Society provides a helpline that can be reached by ringing 0845 300 0336. you can also get more information by checking out http://alzheimers.org.uk/
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News this week that the Care Quality Commission had to close more than 40 care homes and agencies last year to protect residents' safety was a stark reminder of what goes on behind closed doors at Britain's privately run care homes.
A further 51 shut voluntarily after the watchdog labelled them "poor," forcing around 1,600 elderly and disabled people out of their homes.The commission's findings make for grim reading.Two of the privately operated homes forced to close were owned by Anbanaden and Shamila Chellapermal, who were jailed last year for human trafficking.
The commission reported "evidence of neglect of the most basic kind" towards the vulnerable residents with dementia who were supposed to be in their care.In August the Chellapermals were also ordered to hand over around £450,000 in profits they had racked up while employing immigrants illegally in slave-like conditions, working 90 hours a week for a mere 90p an hour.
At Sherwood Lodge in Gillingham the commission reported that residents were not being given their medication and that the home's carpets were stained with blood and urine. In a single month there had been eight incidents of residents attacking each other.In Turnbull House, Birmingham, the commission found a host of failings that removed from residents their right to "independence, respect, choice and dignity." It singled out a shortage of staff as a key safety risk.
In each case the homes were either shut down or the owners did so themselves voluntarily.Home care visits also got their fair share of bad press last year thanks to a BBC Panorama undercover investigation.It found that elderly people in South Lanarkshire were being left to fend for themselves for hours due to missed or shortened home visits.
The programme filmed secretly in the home of one 78-year-old man who was left alone for 14 hours on Christmas Day and was being fed a diet of sandwiches, tinned spaghetti and Quavers crisps.At another home run by a private provider with 48 local authority contracts an 89-year-old woman had been neglected for 24 hours before she was finally found lying in her own faeces by her son.
All these incidents come back to the same thing. If profit-making companies are holding the reins the main thing they care about is how much money they can make, not how good a service they are providing. But unfortunately that lesson still has not been learned.The drastic consequences are that many socially essential services are provided on the cheap. In the case of care homes this means rip-off charges to the vulnerable residents and staff working on a slave's wage.
"A care home placement is more than a room - it is a home, a community, a place where people end their lives," says Age UK Charity Director Michelle Mitchell."Operators that have failed to provide an environment free of abuse or neglect deserve to be shut down by the CQC."And yesterday the commission finally got tougher powers to tackle this ongoing problem. A new registration law came into force to beef up the regulation of health and adult social care in England which brings the NHS, private health care and adult social care providers under the same inspection regime for the first time.
Every care service is now legally responsible for making sure that it meets essential standards of quality and safety to prevent the disastrous, disgusting situations in the past from happening again and again.And the watchdog will only licence care services that meet these essential standards and will regularly monitor each licensed provider. It will have new powers to issue warnings, fines or closures if high standards are not maintained.
Each service user will be involved with what's happening at every stage of their care, each provider will be fully staffed by qualified carers and the quality of services will be constantly checked and updated.Mitchell agrees that the commission's new powers are a positive step. But she warns that it will only have teeth if it has the resources to carry out regular inspections and intervene as soon as possible.
However the watchdog's chief executive Cynthia Bowers is adamant that it will make a difference."We did not tolerate poor care under the old registration system and we certainly will not tolerate it under the new system," she says."Services where problems have been identified can expect frequent inspections and we will use our powers where it is necessary to protect people - even if it means shutting services down."
GMB, a union which represents many of Britain's care workers, also broadly welcomed the new rules.National officer Sharon Holder is hopeful that minimum standards will improve in care homes."It will have the impact of keeping out operators who are in the business for a quick buck," she says.But only time will tell if the new legislation will deliver in the real world, especially against the backdrop of the coalition government's cuts programme.
For now, though, many of the vulnerable people housed in Britain's care homes remain little more than bound and gagged cash cows for private profit.
By Will Stone
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Fire fighters in Rochdale, UK, were out in full force today (Saturday 2 October 2010) for this year’s charity car wash.The Fire Fighters Charity National Car Wash 2010 is taking place at fire stations all over the country.
Rochdale's Green Watch along with off duty fire fighters attended to put a shine back onto cars.The fire fighters also used the event to pass on fire safety information as requested, offering free Home Fire Risk Assessments, where if needed, smoke alarms are provided free of charge
Steve Webb from Rochdale Fire Station said: “Despite fire fighters best efforts, fire fighters see first hand how fire can destroy lives and devastate communities on a daily basis. By learning more about safety around the home, lives can be saved.
“It is also a fantastic way to raise essential funds for The Fire Fighters Charity in order to continue to support those in need.”County Fire Officer Steve McGuirk said: “The National Car Wash Day is a great opportunity for us to raise money for a worthwhile cause which has benefited many fire fighters and their families over the years.”
The Fire Fighters Charity is the official organisation which exists for fire fighters during their times of need and assists over 13,000 injured individuals every year by providing pioneering treatment and support services.The Rochdale fire fighters hope to have raised in the region of £350.
Published by Rochdale Online and for more information please check out www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/
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Firefighters in Watford and Rickmansworth soaked more than 100 cars this afternoon as they raised cash for charity.Crews at both stations ran car washes to raise money for the Firefighters Charity, which provides help and support to injured firefighters and their families.
Station commander at Rickmansworth, Phil Smith, said: “It is a chance for the lads to come in and get the boss wet, raise some money for what is a great charity, and also an opportunity for us to sign people up for safety check visits to their homes.”The events were part of a National Car Wash, organised by the charity, and stations across the country took part.
Rickmansworth station mascot, Welephant, stood at the entrance waving people in and had attracted about 50 cars by 2pm.Crews at the Rectory Road station have raised more than £3,000 for the Firefighters Charity, which is entirely funded through donations, over the past two years.Watford crews also raised about £500 at today's event, which ran from 11am until 4pm.
By Chris Hewett of the Watford Observer.