Leading charities critical of government dementia strategy

Dementia hands

National dementia strategy does not address critical concerns, charities warn 

28th June 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Leading Scottish charities have warned there is no coherent strategy to reduce the number of people affected by dementia.

The warning comes as the Scottish Government launched Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2017-2020, with a range of new commitments on dementia diagnosis and care.

There is strong evidence that lifestyle factors such as stopping smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthily, avoiding depression, maintaining social networks and drinking in moderation can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.

However the charities say there is no action plan in Scotland to inform the public of this link, and of the actions they can take to reduce their own dementia risk, as has happened in England and Wales.

Charities including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, Addaction, Age Scotland, Befriending Networks, Learning Link Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, Age Scotland and Paths for All are calling on the Scottish Government to raise awareness of the importance of living well in reducing dementia risk.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “New commitments on dementia care are welcome. But dementia cases in Scotland will double over the next 25 years unless risk factors are addressed.”

Julie Breslin, head of programme for Addaction’s drink wise, age well project, said: "Evidence proved that regular excessive drinking can increase the risk of the most common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

“With over 25% of the adult Scotland population exceeding recommended weekly alcohol guidelines, it is imperative that this link is made clear to the public so they can make informed choices to reduce their dementia risk," added Breslin. 

And Liz Watson, chief executive of Befriending Networks, said: “Research evidence tells us that lonely people are at considerable additional risk of dementia. 

"It is important that these two strategies are aligned in order to maximise publicly available information about prevention approaches - as what works in preventing loneliness will also contribute to preventing dementia in older people.”

Richard Baker, Age Scotland’s early stage dementia project team leader, added: “Public health campaigns have made a big difference in relation to heart disease and cancer, and a similar approach could have a significant impact for dementia too.

“In our project we are seeking to make more people aware of risk factors for dementia, but a Scottish Government action plan to take this work forward would result in a step change in awareness.”