Every four seconds someone, somewhere in the world, is diagnosed with dementia and there is a greater need for more research to help people affected, along with their friends, family and carers. As our population ages, our awareness of the challenge posed by dementia is increasing. There is growing understanding that at some point everyone will be touched by some form of dementia in some way. I read recently that dementia is now the British public’s most feared condition. This shows the heightened public consciousness, and the need to find a cure and better ways of managing the condition both in the community and in health and social care settings.
A growing need for more dementia research
We’ve come a long way in our journey. Take this month, for example. The first ever Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) was held. The film Still Alice, released to critical acclaim, told us a story about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, opening the gate for a more widespread public debate, and made more people aware of the difficulties that people with dementia and their families face. March was also the month the world lost a treasured friend in the author and Alzheimer’s Research UK patron Sir Terry Pratchett, whose legacy has already raised thousands of pounds.
Sparking discussions on dementia
This month Emerald publishes a special issue of the Journal of Public Mental Health entitled “Dementia: a Public Health Priority”, inspired by the UK government’s launch of the Dementia Challenge in 2012 and the 2013 G8 Dementia Summit. This research looks at public health and public policy challenges, dementia in the workplace, the power of cohort studies for dementia research and the role of the arts in dementia care education. This special issue is the result of over a year of hard work by the journal’s editors and authors.
I hope that not only will this journal’s special issue contribute to the discussion and further our understanding of dementia, but that it will also trigger some changes, particularly in the workplace. As Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, said: “people with dementia need to have their dignity, beliefs and needs respected at all stages in the disease.” All too often, as this research indicates, people are forced to leave work either through a fear of stigma, compulsory redundancy or their employer misunderstanding dementia and what measures they can put in place to enable an employee to continue working effectively.
It’s important to remember that although dementia is progressive and serious, there are great strides being made in how we are tackling and managing it, including an increase in early diagnosis, creating dementia-friendly communities, recognising and sharing how to live well with dementia and the huge surge in registered Dementia Friends. Furthering our understanding through undertaking and sharing research on the social and policy aspects, as well as the medical treatment of and potential cures for dementia, is crucial to successfully dealing with this huge public health issue.
Publishing research of benefit to society
I’m very fortunate that through my work I’m able to publish research that contributes to improving our society and that my employer also pledges its support to a chosen charity each year. This year, 2015, is the year that we’re actively fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK to assist with their pioneering work. It’s vital that we do what we can to raise awareness and give much needed support to the cause.