All about dementia

SONY DSCI’m really pleased that dementia is a priority area for the CCG, around 2,300 people in Bury are living with dementia, and we are committed to improving the diagnosis and care for them. Over the last year, Bury has been very proactive in identifying more people with dementia and our diagnosis rates have risen from 58.6% at the end of March 2014 to 73.6% in February 2015.

As Bury’s GP lead for Mental Health, it’s great to see the profile of dementia is continually being raised in the press and media, and that celebrities are getting on board too through projects like Dementia Friends. Everyone seems to know someone who has been affected; most of us have family members who have been affected, so this is a very personal issue for all of us.

Dementia might be more common that you think, affecting more than 800,000 people in the UK, and the risk increases as we get older, so as the population ages, the numbers increase.

Dementia isn’t one symptom, but a group of related symptoms including memory loss and the ability to manage complex tasks. Becoming forgetful doesn’t necesverily mean that you have dementia and diagnosing dementia sometimes can be difficult, particularly in the early stages as symptoms are often slowly progressive over time.

The symptoms of dementia can be wide and varied, and can include problems with: memory loss, thinking speed, mental agility, language – including finding the right words, understanding and judgement, concentration and planning.  It can also lead to depression, changes in personality and mood and periods of mental confusion. In the elderly sometimes the first signs are when someone becomes confused as part of a physical illness or someone becomes depressed for the first time.

Making an early diagnosis is important as there is a lot that can be done to support someone living with dementia to live well.  An early diagnosis can help people to get the right treatment and support to lead active, fulfilled lives, and to have the time to prepare and plan for the future.  It also helps families and friends make some sense of the odd occurrences or situations that seem to arise for no apparent reason. Certainly it helped me understand why my mother was repeatedly telling me the same story again and again as though I hadn’t heard it before.

Not only is an early diagnosis important, so too are regular check-ups.  In line with dementia being one of our priorities, we have some really good news in Bury in that our GPs are now taking a more active role in dementia diagnosis and ongoing care. GPs have received additional training and some new resources to equip them to both diagnose and provide care of people living with dementia, and support to their carers, ensuring care is both co-ordinated and closer to home. I think it is really important that patients who may be confused or unsettled by what sometimes appears to be a really perplexing illness, can see someone they already know well in the surgery they are familiar with, and often will be treated at the surgery in a way no different than patients with other conditions.

We have also created an information booklet to help people to find local advice and support. There is lots of support out there!  We are committed to ensuring that people living with dementia and their loved ones get the support that they need. A really exciting development is the Bury Dementia Action Alliance, a group of interested parties from a really wide range of organisations in Bury, that are working together to radically improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers in Bury – find out more via this website

It’s a really important step forward in patient care that GPs will be the first port of call in dementia diagnosis and planning care for our patients in the future and that each practice now has a lead GP for dementia.

If you want to find out more about dementia, you can have a look at the NHS online guide and if you are worried about your memory, make an appointment with your GP and have a chat about it.

Dr. Jeff Schryer, GP and CCG Clinical Director/lead for Mental Health

We are always really pleased to see people attend our regular Board meetings. The meetings are held in public and the next one takes place on the 27th May 2015, starting at 3pm at Townside Primary Care Centre in Bury town centre. Please feel free to come along, but if you can’t come, you can still follow discussions and decisions as they happen via our Twitter feed @NHSBuryCCG
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