Catherine James

Catherine James on the ‘Join dementia research’ stand

Our First Guest Blog

Catherine James, from the Alzheimer’s Society and ‘Join dementia research’ (JDR) Helpline Supervisor, attended  the UK Dementia Congress  (10th to 12th November 2014) last week. She kindly wrote a blog post about the event. 

The 9th UK Dementia Congress took place this week in a wet and windy Brighton but the struggle against the wind along the sea front to get there paled into insignificance when the conference opened with a powerful keynote speech from people with dementia and carers from the DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment) group and Carers Call to Action, reminding us all of the challenges people with dementia and their carers face on a daily basis.

The next two days were full of a variety of interesting talks, presentations and discussions covering topics such as creative arts, dementia friendly communities, care (in all its guises) and, last but not least, research.

Norman Lamb at Dementia Congress

Norman Lamb speaking to the congress

An Alzheimer’s Society presentation from Anna Dowrick on Dementia, Prevalence and Cost highlighted that there will be an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK in 2015, a figure that is forecast to rise to over 1 million by 2025 and over 2 million by 2051.

Whilst these are worst case scenario figures that do not take account of public health interventions and any increase in risk reduction, with the total annual cost of dementia currently in excess of £26 billion, these statistics highlight the dementia challenge that is facing the UK.

There is clearly a need for national government to address this challenge, however, research can also help bring about change and an interactive workshop led by Phil Taverner of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) enabled those working in the field to put forward their views on what the research priorities should be.

A common theme was wellbeing and quality of life, with several people highlighting a need for larger qualitative studies that take an in depth look at people’s experiences of living with dementia. Specific groups were also highlighted as priorities, in particular those with severe dementia and more complex needs, and BME (black, minority and ethnic) groups where there is a need for culturally appropriate services and support. Other priorities included staffing in care homes, the principles of dementia friendly design and stimulation after diagnosis.

Thukdc-2014-7ffc24-h900e session closed with Phil identifying that multiple morbidities in older people will be NIHR’s focus for next year and this interestingly coincided with the views expressed by Professor Sube Banerjee who spoke about the challenge of complexity in dementia, highlighting that only 17% of people diagnosed with dementia do not have another condition.

He also spoke about the dangers of generalising data from non-dementia populations to those with dementia and how this can lead to co-morbidity being poorly managed.

We later heard from three researchers who presented interesting findings on pilot studies looking at the impact of living well with dementia therapy groups, the prevalence of visual impairment in people with dementia and the prevention of falls in cognitively impaired older adults living in residential care, some of which again highlighted the need to take account of co-morbidity.

So, a common theme, but lots of variety too which will undoubtedly be reflected on ‘Join dementia research’ as the service rolls out across England.