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Early dementia diagnosis is vital and opens doors

ExtraCare’s Commissioning and Healthy Lifestyles Director, Angela Bradford, says:

For many people the thought of developing dementia is one of the most frightening prospects of ageing, and there are enough misconceptions about dementia around to keep fuelling that fear. Actively seeking a diagnosis to have your fears confirmed may seem to be an undesirable pursuit.

This, amongst other reasons, helps to explain why currently less than half of the people who develop dementia in the UK go on to receive a diagnosis.

Are there any benefits of being diagnosed? Being labelled then grouped in with ‘those people’.

It may surprise many to know that ‘those people’ living with dementia have opportunities to live well and there are increasing examples of this, which hopefully, eventually will tip the balance on the fears and replace them with facts and knowledge of how to retain quality of life throughout the journey of dementia.

A view taken by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust is that a diagnosis opens doors and offers routes to people experiencing dementia and their families. Knowing that dementia is part of your life creates an opportunity to plan and establish your preferences on a whole range of areas from who you would like making decisions about your health and finances. To you describing how you would like to be cared for, what things make your quality of life, and how can those be retained throughout your dementia journey.

In 2014, the dementia diagnosis rate for ExtraCare increased by 9.7% to 72%.

Many people who obtain a diagnosis of dementia can be left thinking ‘now what?’ what is most needed at this point is practical assistance in making sense of the diagnosis.

There may be no cure for dementia but there are many enabling interventions which can be put in place to reduce the disabling impact of the condition.

Yet is estimated that less than half of people living with dementia in the wider community receive a diagnosis.

A significant part of this positive diagnosis rate is access to ExtraCare’s Enriched Opportunities Programme (EOP), a service developed in partnership with the Universities of Bradford and Worcester. Residents of ExtraCare and older people supported by community-based projects receive support from our ‘Locksmiths’, a specialist team member trained to support people who develop dementia.

The role of the Locksmith is to ‘unpick’ issues that dementia may bring to daily life and ‘unlock’ the potential for a person to live well with dementia.

Dementia and its impact on an individuals life is complex and many people face challenges when trying to navigate route to getting the right support.

Locksmiths are trained by the University is Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies and having a dedicated person available to advise and support makes huge differences which include halving the number of residents having to move into residential and nursing care, and reducing hospital stays for residents by up to 42%.

Although the distance between us and a dementia cure remains wide, we have already arrived at ways of improving the quality of life for people affected by dementia.