Swanswell welcomes dementia priority plans

25 October 2012

Swanswell’s welcoming news that the Health Secretary is set to announce that improving care for dementia sufferers is one of his top priorities.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s speech in Eastbourne where he’s expected to outline his ambition to make England ‘one of the best countries in Europe to be old’1.

Mr Hunt’s also set to announce a £50m investment to help hospitals and care homes create more dementia-friendly environments through calmer surroundings which will help avoid confusion2.

But Swanswell believes there is still much more investment needed to help people affected by dementia – including investigating other forms of the condition which are rarely discussed, such as Alcohol-Related Dementia (ARD).

ARD has similar symptoms to other forms of dementia, making diagnosis difficult – yet, if caught early enough and with the right treatment, the effects can potentially be reversed and in many cases, people can return to independent living3.

Through research, Swanswell knows ARD affects around 10% of all dementia cases in the UK4 but even more alarming is that it accounts for about 12.5% of all dementia cases in the under 65s5. Swanswell’s aware of cases involving people as young as 27.

Earlier this month, Swanswell held fringe events at the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences to raise awareness of Alcohol-Related Dementia and a new model of treatment being developed by the national charity.

Swanswell’s set to start a clinical trial of this treatment later this year in South Yorkshire involving people affected by ARD, and their carers.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘We’re pleased that the government is recognising dementia as a top health priority and we welcome news of today’s funding to improve the environment for dementia patients.

Hopefully this marks the start of much more investment in dementia care – it’s a very complex condition that has long lasting effects on individuals and their families, yet some forms, such as Alcohol Related Dementia, could potentially be reversed.

Research suggests that ARD can affect people as young as 27 and it accounts for around one in eight of all dementia cases in the under 65s, so we believe more of the focus needs to be placed on identifying the warning signs earlier.

ARD is preventable – it’s caused by prolonged alcohol use, so by making more people aware of the harms through better education and clearer information, we could reduce the risk of this form of dementia happening in the first place.

However, tackling alcohol misuse is not something any government, organisation or individual can do on their own – we all have a part to play.


  1. The Independent 2012. Jeremy Hunt: £50m to ease pain of dementia. [Online]. Available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-hunt-50m-to-ease-pain-of-dementia-8225399.html [accessed 25/10/12]
  2. Department of Health 2012. Health Secretary announces funding for care homes and wards specially designed for people with dementia. [Online]. Available at http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/10/dementiaenvironments [accessed 25/10/12]
  3. Smith I & Hillman A (1999) Management of alcohol Korsakoff syndrome. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 5 271–278.
  4. Lishman WA (1990) Alcohol and the brain. British Journal of Psychiatry 156    
    635–644 and Harvey RJ, Rossor MN, Skelton-Robinson M & Garralda E (1998)

    Young Onset Dementia: Epidemiology, clinical symptoms, family burden, support
    and outcome
    . London: Imperial College Dementia Research Group.
  5. Harvey RJ, Rossor MN, Skelton-Robinson M & Garralda E (1998) Young Onset
    Dementia: Epidemiology, clinical symptoms, family burden, support and
    . London: Imperial College Dementia Research Group







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