The closing discussion of the DSDC International Dementia Conference in Birmingham in November 2015 was significantly about dementia and politics.
Over two days a range of speakers from all over the world, including nearly sixty concurrent sessions focusing on research and practice of dementia care, had shared new ideas and experience of implementing those ideas. The International Dementia Awards celebrated NHS teams, care in the private sector, design and technology.
But in the end, the call to action from India’s Dr Sridhar Vaitheswaran from Schizophrenia Research Foundation (India) and Sarah Lenz Lock from the American AARP was about the future. As Professor June Andrews, Director of the DSDC, and Mark Butler, Director of the Dementia Festival of Ideas explored what the future holds, it became clear that families have a crucial role. Politicians and care providers must learn that there are no simple answers. Then they need to work out how to best support those families to help themselves.
It is a tough call. As families turn to government and the health service to ask, “What are you going to do for us?” the reply needs to be that those organisations can actually provide less and less because of the increased numbers affected and the limits of public funding.
Already in India families shoulder this burden; they need information on dementia and research on what works in a domestic setting. In America with its highly medicalised care systems, people need to know how to keep well in a country that has few geriatricians and fewer specialists in mental health care of older people.
We need to keep talking, and DSDC will take its part in disrupting the current constricted thinking about the future. Fragmented policies and individual projects hold sway right now, but dementia needs new independent political thought.
This will be the theme for the coming year.