We recently hosted a thought-provoking seminar which looked at the growing care and support needs of people living with dementia.
The region benefits from significant healthcare expertise and the event brought together many of the innovative organisations and businesses in Yorkshire which are looking for ways of tackling the challenges. It also looked at the possibility of creating a centre of excellence in the region that can help people live well with dementia.
The event featured a diverse selection of speakers who provided insights into the topic and an opportunity to bring people together and forge links to enhance one another’s work. As well as considering the global picture, key themes included ways of reducing the risk of dementia; how Yorkshire is dealing with the issue and whether it could become a centre of excellence; the insight provided by big data; how technology can help; and ways in which the private and public sectors can work together.
Speakers included Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Professor Graham Stokes, global director of Dementia Care, BUPA; Kevin Alderson, UK sales & marketing director, Tunstall; Gary Shuckford, healthcare entrepreneur; Gail Mountain, Professor of Applied Dementia Research, University of Bradford; and Sally-Anne Greenfield, chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation.
Some key themes came out of the seminar, notably the huge potential of new technology in alleviating some of the problems faced by those with dementia and improving their quality of life. Kevin Alderson of Tunstall, which provides care support systems for older people, explained how the introduction of digital services could be used to transform people’s lives by giving them connected homes, for example via a telecare eco system. These technological advances could turn the home into an intelligent environment, able to support independent living.
With a 60 year heritage in Yorkshire, Tunstall is pioneering technology in this area and is a great example of the region’s healthcare expertise – it is the world’s leading provider of telehealthcare solutions and now operates in over 50 countries and supports more than 3.6m people worldwide.
Other recurring themes included the need to reduce the risk of dementia by adopting healthy lifestyles which could lead to a 10-15% improvement; and also the essential role played by carers. The continuing need to improve diagnosis in order to provide effective treatment was also stressed and, indeed the problem is increasing more quickly in lower income countries where there is actually less awareness. Research into the disability remains a priority and Yorkshire benefits from a committed group of clinicians.
The idea of becoming not just a dementia friendly society, but rather a dementia inclusive society was emphasised, with a need to remove any stigma and support people living with the condition. From education programmes and urban design to dementia friendly cafes, we need to find ways of enabling people to live well with dementia. Various speakers stressed that we can all play a part in increasing understanding and creating more dementia-inclusive communities. Overall, there is huge healthcare expertise in the region, but we need a more joined up strategy to harness this potential and use it to enhance the lives of those with dementia.
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