Alzheimer’s Society Annual Conference

Karon Walton, SFE’s Chief Legal Officer attended the first day of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Annual conference held at Kia Oval in London. Over 500 delegates attended the first day which saw Fiona Phillips open proceedings, in which she set out the Alzheimer’s Society’s call to action for big or small actions to be taken by everyone to end isolation and loneliness for people living with dementia.

Kathryn Smith, the Chief Operating Officer said that there is “so much more to do” and detailed the Alzheimer’s Society change from awareness to action and that its has revised its dementia statements from “I” to “we”. Alzheimer’s Society will champion these statements to work to create a society where those affected are supported and able to live without prejudice.

Following this, there were four representatives who are living with dementia who are on the Alzheimer’s Three Nations Working Group where they gave their views on the statements and what they want from society which includes being treated as a unique individual, to be recognised as who they are and to make choices about their own lives, even if this is to take risks and have a right to contribute to society and that their diagnosis should not define them. They said that simple actions of kindness go a long way, but people need to put their words into actions and small actions can make a big impact.

Simon Lovestone, a professor from Oxford University, discussed his research work around using big data to work for a big solution for Alzheimer’s and how big data can be used for drug discovery. Clinical studies and use of medial data through electronic records are helping to cut down on years of research.

There were various breakout talks from professionals in research, hospitals and care, speaking about how they are approaching dementia, including the Ambulance service, Critical Care in Bristol and The Good Care Group.

In the afternoon, Jenny Owen, the Vice Chair, opened the session to introduce Professor Martin Knapp who presented new research from the London School of Economics on how the responsibility for dementia care costs fall on the shoulders on those living with dementia. With new data, they have been able to provide more accurate figures, as to the true cost of someone living with dementia over other people living with other conditions such as cancer or diabetes. People effected by dementia shoulder two thirds of all dementia costs in the UK – approximately £17 billion and this is 40% more than on standard social care.

Jeremy Hughes, the Chief Executive Officer for the Alzheimer’s Society, stated that he was calling on the government to tackle the unfair system of the costs for a person living with dementia and the enormous pressure that is being placed on them and their families. He stated that the state should pick up the 40% difference of the social care costs and it should invest in good quality support ie people who are trained in dementia, and that everyone should have the right to have access to support and information, including having a care navigator.

Caroline Dinenage, the Minister for Health and Social Care, stated that the government has achieved a lot in supporting change, including the fact that more people are receiving an early diagnosis, that there is more clinical awareness and guidelines around care plans and named persons, plus the doubling of funding on research. She stated that the government was working on a Green Paper and that this was going to be released for consultation in the summer.

The final message from the conference was that each of us should take action, as a little action can have a big impact.