WORLD ALZHEIMER’S DAY - 21ST SEPTEMBER
Last week I was delighted to meet Alzheimer's Research UK to better understand dementia in all its forms.
Loved ones with dementia are simultaneously both present and absent. It’s bewildering for those living with the condition, and heart-breaking for the family.
Dementia doesn’t happen to everyone as they age. It’s caused by illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia which impact on different parts of the brain and affect people in different ways. Thankfully, the majority of older people never suffer from dementia. However, globally 50 million people do, representing a huge health challenge.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, 1,425 people here in my constituency of North Ayrshire and Arran have dementia. This includes my own mother-in-law. Currently, there’s no way to prevent dementia and only through research can we develop the life-changing treatments people suffering from this cruel and indiscriminate illness desperately need.
Around two thirds of sufferers live at home, being cared for by their family and a third are in acute or residential care, where they form the majority of residents.
Scotland is the only UK nation with free personal care, which is extremely important for those coping with the financial strain that dementia has on families. The SNP Government invested £700 million in 2019-20 to support free personal care for older people and it has now extended this to those under 65 with a diagnosis of early dementia, some 3,000 people.
Scottish Ministers have commissioned an independent review into adult social care. The aim is to build a National Care Service to support the 90,000 people in Scotland with dementia, their families and carers.
In its Dementia and Covid-19 Action Plan, Scottish Ministers set out 21 commitments as they seek to assess the pandemic’s impact and respond to the needs of dementia sufferers and their carers across all care settings at diagnosis and during the dementia care journey. Furthermore, the SNP’s Scottish Parliament manifesto this year pledged to create a National Pharmaceutical Agency to support investment in cutting edge research and development.
While dementia has many causes, with Alzheimer's disease the most common, early diagnosis is hugely important. Caught early, progression can be slowed. It’s therefore vital to progress research into this dreadful and terrifying disease.
In their 2019 UK Manifesto, the Tories promised to double research funding as part of a so-called ‘Dementia Moonshot’ to find a cure. While Boris Johnson’s Government is wantonly abandoning manifesto pledges at a frightening rate, the need for greater investment in dementia research has not abated. Sadly, COVID-19 had a devastating financial impact on medical research charities, including Alzheimer’s Research UK, with medical research charities predicting a 41% decrease in research investment this year.
It’s therefore essential that UK Ministers urgently deliver their commitment to double funding for dementia research. I and my SNP Westminster colleagues continue to press this.
We cannot allow time or opportunities to pass as we seek to support those living with, or at risk of, the devastating and life changing illness that is dementia.