A few years back I was a member of the Policy Group for Alzheimer Scotland. I resigned as I was concerned about some of the approaches being taken at a national level including significant concerns about the target set for the early diagnosis of dementia.
This week a promotional e-mail arrived from Alzheimer Scotland:
The “Let’s talk about Dementia” campaign was introduced as:
“we want to open up the discussion on dementia and raise the awareness of the importance of early diagnosis”
The guidance given is comprehensive and explicit. An Alzheimer Scotland helpline is available 24 hours:
The good intentions are clear. Yet I have significant concerns with this approach.
I have previously covered my concerns about early diagnosis here.
I have also considered the wider scientific evidence on memory loss as we age. This post on the parabolic pattern offers a summary.
The risk of the approach taken by Alzheimer Scotland in this current campaign is that all forgetfulness is “understood” as pathological. As disease. As “early dementia”. As “Alzheimers” (as dementia may synonymously be misunderstood). This would be a false “understanding” for a significant number of our respected elders in Scotland. Such misunderstanding risks undermining their “rights, dignity and autonomy”.
In October 2014 I attended the Conference below. Here is a summary of this conference by Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland:
I welcomed “The Glasgow Declaration” endorsing as it does a timely approach to the diagnosis of dementia:
I was delighted to see this agreement signed as I have been tireless supporter for timely diagnosis.
So, with this recent history in mind, here is my [fictional] letter to the letters page of any newspaper published in Scotland. Here, I am following the advice of this latest Alzheimer Scotland Campaign:
5th February 2015
"Dear Editor, I am writing as I am concerned about the short term memories of a few professional colleagues. This is a "difficult conversation" for me to have. I have followed advice and will not mention any names but can give designations. One is the recent Cabinet Minister for Health, another is his Senior Government Advisor and the last is the Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland. It seems that all three have forgotten that they signed, in October 2013, the Glasgow Declaration based on the timely diagnosis of dementia. I must admit feeling a bit confused myself as to why we have such forgetfulness. I do hope that it is not pathological. Yours sincerely Dr Peter J Gordon