Dementia is more prevalent in our society today than we care to admit. What would you do if a member of your family doesn’t recognise you anymore? According to the Alzheimer’s society, there are over 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This will soar to 2 million by 2051. 225,000 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one in every three minutes. I in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Isn’t it appropriate that we are more aware of the impact of this terrifying disease? Even among footballers, the numbers are climbing up. It is a prevalent disease, and I think there should be more public knowledge.
While reading ‘Still Alice’ written by Lisa Genova, I finally understood the terror of the disease through the eyes of the patient. It is terrifying beyond words. However, scientists are still researching and looking for ways to curb this terrifying disease.
However, life doesn’t have to be the end with the diagnosis of Alzheimer; people can still live and enjoy their lives. Love can blossom again, even amid all the confusion beguiling the mind of the patients, their quality of life is, and should still be everyone’s priority, be it the family directly affected with this disease or our very own National Health Service (NHS).
A perfect example is the story of Dr Avril Staunton who is striving to challenge negative perceptions of dementia. After being shocked at her diagnosis, she has raised awareness of dementia through a series of talks. Avril determined to remain independent as long as it takes. She is one of many people living with the disease, and she is still alive and well.
Reading books, non-fiction narratives, or volunteering at the Alzheimer society are different ways we can understand this disease. Also, being friendly doesn’t have to hurt, and a government initiative to tackle loneliness is a very good idea.
Originally, the late MP Jo Cox started the project. She died before the EU Referendum in tragic circumstances, and the project would help lonely people in our societies.
According to the BBC, ‘In a statement, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected. She said the new ministerial role would continue Ms Cox’s legacy, with the post holder working with the commission, businesses, and charities to create a government strategy.”
Downing Street got it right.
Life could be lonely if people with Alzheimer’s don’t have great support around them.
How to help lonely elderly people
- Start a conversation. Stop and talk. Don’t hurry them.
- Offer practical help, such as shopping, posting a letter, picking up prescriptions or walking their dog
- Offer to accompany them or give them a lift to medical appointments, the library, hairdressers or faith services
- Share your time – volunteer with an organisation that has befriending services matching you with an isolated elderly person for home visits or regular phone calls
- Help with household tasks – offer to take out the rubbish, change light bulbs, clear snow, put up pictures
- Share a meal – take round an extra plate of hot home-cooked food or a frozen portion
… and lonely younger people
- Reach out. Arrange to meet face to face or talk on the phone
- Encourage people to start conversations, whether a short face-to-face chat or joining an online discussion
- Offer to go to a class or group activity with them
- Suggest they look for talking treatments in their local area to help them manage the mental health effects of loneliness or recommend an online support community like Elefriends
- Listen and don’t make assumptions. People can feel lonely even if it looks like they have a busy and full life
That’s why I believe the minister for loneliness is a fabulous idea.