Dr Emma Wolverson and Dr Liz Price are the Programme Directors for the Hull Online MSc in Dementia. Here, they make five statements that will challenge how you think about dementia diagnosis and care in the UK.
1. Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK
Did you know that dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales? It accounts for 12.7% of all deaths registered.
The reasons for this are complex, but relate, in the main, to the fact that we are simply living longer (statistically, the older you are, the more likely you are to have dementia), more people are being diagnosed with dementia and the way that deaths are recorded has changed to allow people to be recorded as having ‘died from dementia’, as opposed to the acute presenting issue, such as pneumonia.
What is certain is that the numbers of people dying from dementia will continue to rise (as more people are diagnosed in the condition). This means that urgent attention is needed to help support people living with dementia to maintain their health and well-being.
Dr Emma Wolverson discusses why words matter when we're talking about dementia:
2. Dementia is a family diagnosis
Dementia is a condition perhaps best understood as a continuum of experience which affects not only the person diagnosed but also their family and wider social circles.
As such, dementia can destabilise and undermine (and also recreate and renegotiate) the social, institutional and cultural structures, that surround a person and their family, which means that dementia is an experience of profound interconnection. It’s not just something a person ‘has’ which is separate from the rest of their lived world.
3. The medical model of dementia is insufficient to explain the condition
The classic biomedical model of dementia dominates literature about, and research into, dementia. The approach is based in the positivist tradition of orthodox medicine, which seeks to establish a cause and effect relationship by isolating specific variables which account for an ‘abnormal’ condition.
If, though, we reduce the experience of dementia to pathological changes in the brain, we risk the systematic dehumanisation of the person with the condition. This has the net effect of focusing research and resource attention on the causes (and possible treatments) of the condition, rather than thinking about the best ways to support the person living with dementia.
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4. ‘Living well with dementia’ is, currently, policy rhetoric which requires more critical attention
The concept of living well with dementia has gained significant public and policy attention in recent years and, whilst there can be no argument with the aim of living well with dementia, the concept has received relatively little critical attention.
This means that there is not really an agreed definition of what it means to ‘live well’ with dementia, or how ‘living well’ might be assessed/measured or, indeed, what the concept means to people who may not be able, or sufficiently resourced, to ‘live well’.
5. There is one dementia researcher for every four cancer researchers in the UK
Given that dementia is the leading cause of death in UK (and that recorded deaths from cancer continue to decline), this statistic gives some indication of the ways in which dementia is systematically disregarded in the context of research and public policy.
The Hull Online MSc in Dementia critically challenges common perceptions of dementia as a diagnosis solely of loss and despair. You will focus on human rights, dignity and care provision and learn what it means to live well with dementia.: