Some of you may have heard a recent visitor from the UK – Graham Stokes, a Neurologist. He spoke to many groups about the huge increase world wide in dementia that is going to happen oveer the next 40 years.
He cited many factors amongst them an increasingly long lived population, the “Baby Boomers” population bulge and better methods of diagnosis. It is not that rates of incodence of the condition are increasing, just that there will be a larger group from which people will develop the disease.
He made it very clear that this is not a psychiatric condition but a neuorolgical condition, something that we are not always clear about even now.
The points he made were very clear. There will not be enough beds to cope with the level of need.
There will need to be better supports for families and carers in the community. It will not be possible to rely on “The Family” to automatically take on the very real burden of care because our society is changing so much. Women tend to marry men older than themselves and if a marriage is not providing what they want many are now divorcing in their 50's and 60's. Second relationships do not have the same level of establishment so if a partner becomes ill there is not the same commitment to taking on caring for them.
We have another change in that children are economically dependent on their families for much longer. A combination of student debt, economic conditions in general and a much later date for settling down compared to previous generations.
We are already seeing calls for the retirement age to be raised. A result from this will be that in some cases people who might have taken on care will still be at work.
None of this paints a pretty picture but there are things that can be done. And we need to start now before the full force of this epidemic hits.
Dramatherapy can help both the person diagnosed and their families and care givers. It is much easier to cope with the memory loss if the person is not depressed withdrawn or angry, if they communicate although not from the past. Using this therapuetic approach benefits the individuals,and their families and enables them to stay in their community for longer whether it be home or the retirement village they have chosen.
We can do something that is positive in all directions, personally, socially and economically.
But we need to act before we get overwhelmed.
All those people who paid for the infrastructure we have now deserve better.
Today's teenagers will not be thinking about this yet but when they do get old – and they are likely to live even longer, they might just be grateful for having good standards of care well established.