DEMENTIA has been dubbed a ‘national crisis’ with an estimated 800,000 people now living with the disease in the UK.
Some 13,000 people across West Sussex are said to have dementia and that number is expected to grow by 14 per cent by 2017.
The disease typically – though not exclusively – affects the elderly, and with one in four people in the Chichester and Arun districts aged 65 or above, it’s a particular problem across the Observer area.
Chichester District Council estimates the number of people aged 65 and over in the district with dementia will rise by 58 per cent from 2,329 in 2015 to 3,685 in 2030.
So news Chichester and Bognor have both signed up to become dementia-friendly places to live will be welcome to the many living with the disease, their families and carers.
The many support groups around the area have just joined up to Dementia Action Alliance – a national initiative run through Alzheimer’s Society – with big launch events planned in May.
Dementia is a growing problem that everyone needs to take responsibility forSabine Margarson, Chichester Dementia Support Group
“This is wonderful news,” said Sabine Margarson from Chichester Dementia Support Group. “Dementia is a growing problem that everyone needs to take responsibility for, it’s not a normal part of growing old.
“A big part of it will be encouraging high street shops and their staff to increase their awareness about the disease and take steps to make themselves easier for people with dementia to use.
“For example, a mat outside a shop can look to some people with the disease like a giant black hole so it would prevent them from entering. Swirly carpets can look like moving snakes, and it’s knowing these simple things that can really help.”
The launch even will coincide with the Living with Dementia Festival in Chichester, which will run from April to June.
The new festival will see a host of arts and crafts events going on around the area and at Chichester Festival Theatre to encourage people with the disease to feel an active part of the community.
St Richard’s Hospital has begun the process in a number of ways, including checks on elderly patients who come in with other ailments and staff training.
Last year, West Sussex County Council produced a West Sussex Dementia Framework 2014-19. Its aim is to work with support groups to achieve early diagnosis so people with dementia, their families and carers receive ‘high quality, compassionate support’ and still feel part of their community.
Chichester and Arun district councils are supporting the launch of Dementia Action Alliance in May. Elaine Thomas, community wellbeing manager at Chichester, said: “The role of the alliance is to work towards removing the stigma around dementia and educate the public about how it can impact on people’s lives.
“The alliance wants to understand what people living with dementia and their carers want and need to support them. It includes a wide range of stakeholders who want to make a difference.”
Although the disease occurs most commonly in over 65s, Sabine said people can be diagnosed far younger.
Support groups are encouraging businesses and individuals to take part in dementia friends sessions, which are fun and last between 45 minutes to an hour.