Swanswell welcomes government dementia measures

08 November 2012

Swanswell’s welcoming a number of new measures aimed at tackling the UK’s Dementia Challenge but it would like to see more specific work around forms of the condition that could potentially be reversed.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to today’s announcement from the government about the next phase of its plan to tackle the growing problem of dementia.

It includes training a million people to become ‘dementia friends’ in England by 2015 to help identify symptoms, £9.6 million for dementia research, extra support for GPs on dementia and a commitment on information for people diagnosed with dementia.

Alcohol-Related Dementia (ARD) is one of the forms of dementia that the national charity knows is preventable and potentially reversible with the right treatment – if caught early enough. In many cases, people can return to independent living1.

ARD is similar to other forms of dementia, making diagnosis difficult, and is brought on by prolonged, significant alcohol consumption. Swanswell is aware of cases in people as young as 27.

Through research, Swanswell knows ARD affects around 10% of all dementia cases in the UK2 but even more alarming is that it accounts for about 12.5% of all dementia cases in the under 65s3.

Last month (October), 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 shortly 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 serious condition, which needs more investment to help reduce the impact it has on those affected and to society.

In addition, we need more awareness raising of other forms of dementia – not just the more well known forms such as Alzheimer’s – so people can identify symptoms earlier and in the case of ARD, could potentially receive treatment in future to reverse the effects.

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, yet ARD is preventable.

‘It’s caused by prolonged alcohol use, so by making more people aware of the potential 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.

References

1. Smith I & Hillman A (1999) Management of alcohol Korsakoff syndrome. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 5 271–278.

2. 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

3. 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

 

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