Around 850,000 people are estimated to have dementia in the UK, and that figure is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025.
Rising prevalence has led to a number of new initiatives focussing on the condition. In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia 2020 set out more than 50 commitments with the hope of making England a world leader in dementia care, research and awareness by 2020.
Efforts like this are starting to reap rewards, and there have been recent improvements in the rates of diagnosis and new funds being developed to research the condition.
However, despite these positive steps, we know people with dementia and their carers still find it hard to get good quality care and support or to lead as active a life in the community as they could.
With this in mind, Age UK started looking at what ‘living well’ meant to people with dementia and their carers, and from there we branched out to find an array of services and approaches that could help them achieve this. Our findings are published in a new report, ‘Promising Approaches to Living Well with Dementia.’
Taking a fully person-centred approach, our report is based on discussions we had with older people with dementia and their carers, as well as experts in the field.
Many of the services highlighted in our report centre around maintaining personal wellbeing, sustaining positive relationships with friends and family and carrying on with day-to-day activities – three factors older people with dementia and their carers told us were crucial in ‘living well.’ They include counselling, arts and crafts activities, and helping people reminisce through dance.
However, our report outlines not just services that can help with ‘living well’, but how the local environment must be built and organised to enable people with dementia to access them, and how there must be support for people to navigate what’s out there. Indeed, new analysis shows over 1 in 3 people with dementia don’t have a care plan meaning they may not be signposted to follow up support or services that can really improve their wellbeing and physical and mental health.
Our report is a must read for individuals in local authorities, care providers, NHS Trusts, voluntary sector services and community groups who support and want a better deal for people living with dementia and their carers. All of the interventions featured show real promise in impacting on quality of life outcomes, are cost-effective and scalable, and can be replicated across the country.
Looking to the future
As is clear from our report, there is already a lot of activity in communities to help people with dementia live well.
However, while we highlight the evidence we have found to demonstrate these approaches work, we also argue there is still too little evidence about the impact of interventions on people’s wellbeing and quality of life. It’s important action is taken to deepen the evidence base around what works in supporting people with dementia to live well.
What’s more, it’s still very much a postcode lottery as too many of the initiatives are confined to pockets of the country and aren’t widely available to people with dementia and their carers.
As we move forward, it’s vital a more strategic approach is taken to ensuring that communities put in place the systems, structures and services that people need to live well with dementia.
Only then can we ensure people with dementia get the care and support they need to live well.