World Alzheimer's Month is a great chance to shed further light on the fact that over 46 million people live with dementia worldwide - a figure that is expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 131.5 million by 2050.
People are worried about this, and a recent survey conducted by Bupa shows more than two thirds of people worldwide are concerned about their loved ones developing dementia, while 63% are worried about themselves developing the condition. In the UK, a survey by Alzheimer's Society revealed that for people over 55-years-old, dementia was the greatest health worry - greater than cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Despite these concerns, Bupa's research, which surveyed over 7,000 people across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Spain, Chile and Poland, also reveals that 40% of people admit they don't know much about dementia, what causes it or what they can do to reduce the risk of developing it.
It's clear from the research we need to do more to create a dementia-aware and inclusive society if we want to meet the spectre of a dementia crisis in the years to come.
By 2020 the UK Government wishes to see over half of people living in areas that have been recognised as Dementia Friendly Communities. But what exactly does a dementia-inclusive society look like? Bupa has set a vision of what steps we believe need to be taken to create a society which really values, cares for, involves and supports people living with dementia and their families:
- Focusing on risk reduction awareness at early stages to ensure people take action sooner. Research has found that although there is currently no cure or effective treatment for dementia, healthy lifestyles can play a part in reducing the chances of developing it.
- Integrating dementia awareness into the workplace through employers embracing an active role in risk reduction and education.
- Ensuring children in schools and the wider community are dementia-literate and are educated to understand the issues that people living with dementia may face and how to support them.
- Working in partnership with local government, retailers, transport companies and urban designers to ensure that people with dementia are enabled to live safe, active and enriched lives, whether that be when out shopping, travelling or visiting libraries, museums or the cinema.
- Establishing the right health and care pathways to ensure individuals and their families are supported from diagnosis until final stages.
This is something that Bupa is already taking action on in both the community and the workplace. Bupa has Admiral Nurses in the UK - specialist dementia nurses who give practical and emotional support to carers, both family and professional, as well as the person living with dementia.
In Spain we've put a big focus on helping carers of people living with dementia to have access to the support they need to look after themselves, so they can provide the best care for their loved ones. And in New Zealand we are working with community partners to design a resilient town that will support the independence and quality of life of aged people, including all living with dementia.
In the workplace, we have created the Person First Pledge, a self-directed 20-minute online course to increase our own employees' understanding of dementia, which includes a personal pledge to help create a more dementia-inclusive society by taking an action in their communities.
There is more that needs to be done, but I believe that living well with dementia can be a reality, though only if governments and every part of society - including workplaces, schools, health systems, individuals - make it an urgent priority. Faced with the social and economic challenge of ageing populations, and the fact that more people will be in work while being family carers, we have a global need for a dementia-inclusive society.
In the creation of a dementia-inclusive society, what is crucial is that we ensure that everything focuses on the individual and not their condition, listening to and thinking about the person to meet their needs in the way they want. At Bupa, we call this 'Person First' and it's our company-wide principle for aged care and supporting people living with dementia and their families.
Take a look at our Person First Hub, which explains more and showcases examples of this approach in action in our aged care services worldwide.