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By DSDC Team

January 15th, 2014

Painting a picture of Dementia — unconscious and unthinking narratives

Most of the daily nationals in the UK gather together old dementia news stories in dedicated microsites, helpfully labelled “dementia”.  They reveal, across a year, an unconscious and unthinking narrative which cumulatively promotes a picture of dementia. Day by day news stories frame the way we all see dementia.  

In 2013 coverage in the mainstream “The Independent” on-line media promoted several lines which seem overlap and conflict with each other.

Dementia is an impending and inevitable apocalypse. Headline story: “World Alzheimer Report: global number of dependent older people will nearly treble to £277m by 2050 – with almost half suffering dementia”

Dementia can be combatted by simple measures we can all take. Stories include : “Dementia patients “need relationships””. “Regular exercise reduces risk of depression by 30%.” “UK’s first dementia dog gives couple “their lives back”” “Walking just 2.5 miles a week could prevent 37,000 deaths”. “Mediterranean diet may reduce dementia risk” “Singing boosts brain activity in Alzheimer’s patients scientists say”

Care Homes and hospitals are places of regular abuse, corruption and neglect.  Some examples: “Three staff at Hillcroft care home in Lancashire “mocked, bullied and assaulted” dementia sufferers.” “Elderly patients wait up to a year for dementia tests.”  “Care Homes on the brink as bailiffs move in”. “Campaigners brand police plan to fit dementia patients with GPS tracking devices to reduce costly call-outs as ”inhumane”    

Just about anything can increase your chances of succumbing to dementia.  “Increased risks of dementia for people who have general anaesthesia.” “Breastfeeding might reduce risk of Alzheimer ’s disease suggests study.” “Poor dental health and gum disease may cause Alzheimer’s.” “Rugby injuries could be linked to early onset dementia.” “Stress in Middle aged women could increase risk of dementia.””

Miracle cures for dementia are on their way. “ACE Inhibitor drugs offer dementia treatment hope.” “Unprecedented breakthrough in hunt for a dementia drug within “five years””. Even “Robotic seals could improve lives of dementia sufferers.”

Celebrities struggle like the rest of us with dementia as a devastating disease.  The roll-call includes Baroness Thatcher, Jack Woolley of the Archers, Terry Pratchett - even Nelson Mandela is mentioned at one point.

Dignified suicide is a blissful and necessary release from dementia. “First Briton ends life through assisted suicide at Dignitas because of dementia”

This palette is broadly the same across all the media. It emerges from threadbare news rooms which quote Press Releases word for word from what look like legitimate sources (but often aren’t).  Maybe the time is right for a different approach which tries to grow a richer and more nourishing range of stories. People with dementia certainly deserve better than this mixture of scare stories, straw men and other bits of unthinking nonsense.  Indeed we all do.

Reliance on unreliable sources, which should be challenged, is even clearer for “hard news” stories on dementia.  The Independent and others now rely almost solely on spin from the Government and increasingly conflicted agencies like the Alzheimer’s Society and Kings Fund - a theme we will explore more in 2014.  This matters even more after the notorious G8 Summit which was built up and reported as though something important for dementia had happened.  It hadn’t and was never going to, as will also become clear in the months ahead. 

Source site http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/Dementia

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Categories: Dementia in the Media