We are excited to see City Hall lit up in forget-me-not blue tonight, to mark the start of Dementia Action Week 2023. With more than 4,000 people aged 65 and over currently living with dementia in Bristol, it’s vitally important that we raise awareness of the condition and ensure dementia is a priority locally and nationally.
Dementia Action Week is Alzheimer’s Society’s biggest and longest running awareness-raising campaign, calling on people across the UK to act on dementia. Nearly 1,500 of the 4,000 people living with dementia in Bristol are without a formal diagnosis, meaning they’re facing the challenges the condition poses alone. This is why this year’s Dementia Action Week is focused on increasing dementia diagnosis rates.
In February 2022, the dementia diagnosis rate in Bristol was 69%, above the national average of 62% and the national ambition of 66.7%. This is in no small part thanks to the brilliant work of the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service. The service has made great strides in tackling the barriers preventing people from accessing a timely diagnosis.
Founded in 2015 as a partnership between the NHS and Alzheimer’s Society, the Dementia Wellbeing Service has reduced waiting times to the point that 95% of service users have a first appointment booked within 10 days. Meanwhile, through its Community Development Coordinators, the service has promoted dementia awareness and enabled seldom heard from groups to access support. This means the service is widely known as the go-to for dementia support across the city.
Despite this progress, many people in Bristol are still living with undiagnosed dementia and unable to access vital care and support that is needed to live well. We want to encourage those who might be living without a diagnosis to understand and recognise potential dementia symptoms and feel empowered to take their next step.
Getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but we believe it’s always better to know. And so do 91% of people living with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society research found that people living with dementia felt getting a diagnosis benefitted them in more ways than one. It allowed them to plan for their future, receive practical advice, feel a sense of relief through understanding their condition, and get medication to help manage the symptoms of dementia. More importantly, it helped them avoid crisis points.
Empowering individuals and their families to seek a timely diagnosis and avoid reaching these crisis points is therefore vital. However, in addition to illustrating numerous benefits of a timely diagnosis, our research uncovered several barriers preventing people from seeking a diagnosis. Along with misconceptions around memory loss being a normal part of ageing, we found being in denial and specialist referral times to be the biggest barriers to getting people to seek a diagnosis.
The key message we want to share this Dementia Action Week is that dementia isn’t called getting old – it’s called getting ill. If you’re worried about symptoms that could be signs of dementia, you can access our symptoms checklist here. This tool can help begin conversations with health professionals and is endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.
We want everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever you are, whatever you are going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for support, help and advice. Visit Alzheimer’s Society’s website (www.alzheimers.org.uk) or call 0333 150 3456 for more information.