Rising to the dementia challenge

Dementia has become, and is likely to remain, one of the hottest topics in health and social care. The number of people with dementia in the UK is likely to keep rising until at least the middle of the century, and everyone from politicians to the general public is concerned about how we are going to respond to the challenges this will bring.

The rhetoric of the Global Summit on Dementia suggests we can expect effective treatments that could affect the disease processes underlying dementia in 10-15 years time. It is true that we will know a lot more about the biological processes that cause dementia during this time, and this research will help us to develop ideas for possible new treatments. But a curative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease 15 years in the future won’t do very much to help those currently living with dementia, and scepticism about miracle cures may well be justified.

Around three-quarters of a million people in the UK have dementia – estimates vary from 670,000 to 850,000 – and a conservative estimate is that 100,000 people will develop the condition every year. The total number of people with dementia won’t increase that fast as most people with dementia are older, and quite a large number will die in any given year. But over the next 15 years, a minimum 1.5 million new cases of dementia will arise, all of which will need a diagnosis and planning to support those with dementia and their families during their journey.

It is therefore very timely that Nursing Standard is running a series of articles on dementia throughout 2015. The series will cover a comprehensive range of topics, from the biological underpinnings of dementia in the brain to the role of arts and other therapeutic activities that can make such a difference to people’s quality of experience. The spectrum of authors contributing to this series reflects this broad, and hopefully comprehensive approach. The intended readership is predominantly the nursing community  – whether you are already a specialist in dementia care, or whether your connection with dementia is more personal than work-related, we hope there is something for everyone.

About the author

Tom Dening is professor of dementia research in the institute of mental health at the University of Nottingham