Opinion

Dementia would be a higher national priority if it afflicted children

As if the physical and psychological consequences of having dementia are not bad enough, those with the condition are also likely to experience being cut off by other members of society. A report published in 2013 by the Alzheimer's Society suggested that one third of people with the condition leave their homes only once a week.

The charity is taking action by helping create 'dementia-friendly' cities, towns and villages. It aims to have created 20 such communities by 2015, and has brought together almost 500 organisations that are working together to achieve this goal. See Dementia Action Alliance for more.

One of the underlying reasons for dementia patients' feelings of isolation is the lack of comprehensive community care services. District nurses and their colleagues in similar roles are simply too busy to call in on every person who would benefit from such visits. And too many staff working in the community are not offered the opportunities to update and improve their knowledge in this highly specialist area.

Much work also needs to be done to improve public attitudes and behaviour in relation to older people generally, and especially those with dementia. On the one hand our most senior citizens are infantilised by being spoken to in a patronising way, and on the other they experience neglect that would never be tolerated if the victims were children.

Older people deserve better: to be treated with all the dignity and respect everyone should receive, and protected in recognition of their particular vulnerability.

About the author

Graham Scott is editor of Nursing Standard, published by RCNi