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Bury and Stowmarket MP Jo Churchill says it's time to talk about dementia

Dementia has been described as the healthcare crisis of our time. It is estimated that there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and that 1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime. Now is the time to talk about dementia.

We all know someone, be it a friend or family member, who either has dementia or is caring for someone who does. Based on research conducted by Alzheimer’s Research UK, it is estimated that there are over 1,900 people in Bury St Edmunds constituency living with dementia, making us the constituency with the 25th highest prevalence.

The current cost of dementia to the economy is estimated to be £26 billion, the vast majority of which is social care costs, however I recognise there are also hidden care costs. With an ageing population, these costs are only going to rise unless we act. So what should we do?

It's time to talk about dementia, says Jo Churchill
It's time to talk about dementia, says Jo Churchill

Research will be vital. The Government has committed to spend at least £60 million a year until 2020 on dementia research and I was delighted to meet and visit Alzheimer’s Research UK who are based only a few miles from Bury. I am pleased however that in 2016/17 the Government went above this commitment and spent £83 million on research. This will allow us to better detect, diagnose and treat dementia.

The next important factor is education. For a condition that affects many people directly and indirectly, there remains a great deal of confusion. There are different terms, types and causes for dementia, many of which become conflated. I am pleased that the Government’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 places emphasis on risk reduction. Like with any health condition, prevention is always better than a cure. If we can tell people about the risks of developing dementia, we can renew focus on reducing those risks and take preventative action, where possible.

The final aspect is looking at innovative approaches to living with dementia. With our population living longer, the likelihood is that more of us will live with dementia in our lifetime, be it ourselves or with loved ones. We should therefore look at enabling local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, care home providers and developers to work together and create dementia villages. These could be communities that support people to live in their own homes, with their family around them and tailored support. In turn, this would then help reduce the significant costs paid in social care. Excellent support is given locally at Gatehouse but we can all do more.

We know that the best way to combat stigma around health conditions is to start and continue conversations. Let’s do that now with dementia.