Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, and with the release of a new report by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), there is a huge amount of news coverage about the condition. This is not surprising when taking into consideration the findings of this report, which include the following:
- Dementia is significantly affecting every health and social care system in the world.
- Dementia care costs around 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy (ranking between Turkey and Indonesia).
- By 2030, worldwide societal costs will increase by 85 percent (a very conservative estimate considering only increases in the number of people with dementia).
You can read a summary of the report here: http://www.alz.org/documents/national/World_Alzheimer_Report_2010_Summary(1).pdf
ADI are calling for global action to address what the authors, Professor Anders Wimo and Professor Martin Prince are calling ‘the most significant health crises of the 21st century’. Professor Prince urged nations to develop better plans for caring for the millions who have the disease. “The care of people with dementia is not just a health issue – it is a massive social issue,” he said.
Actress Lynda Bellingham has been speaking out about her family’s experience of the disease. Five years ago she lost her adoptive mother, Ruth, to Alzheimer’s disease; only a year later she learnt that her birth mother, Marjorie, also has the condition. She has spoken about the way in which she noticed, following Ruth’s diagnosis in the late 90’s that no one talked about the Alzheimer’s.
People are scared to death of even hearing the word dementia, but someone is diagnosed with it in the UK every three minutes…It affects at least 750,000 people and costs the economy £23 billion a year, twice the cost of cancer, three times the cost of heart disease. Yet in 2007-08, cancer research received £248.2 million, while dementia research received just £32.34 million. As a subject it’s just not sexy.
But surely with these latest findings things must change. It shouldn’t just be on one day a year that the news headlines draw attention to the millions living with this disease. If it is to be dealt with, there needs to be action. More money needs to be committed to research, to supporting carers who look after loved ones and to improving the quality of care that people living with Alzheimer’s receive.
At The Reader Organisation we are passionate about the positive effects that shared reading can have for those living with dementia. Over the last four years delivering Get Into Reading in dementia care homes we have seen firsthand the impact it has, with outcomes including improved communication skills, improved concentration and the ability to be calm in difficult situations. One care worker recently commented
I have seen the effect that it has on people; people that I didn’t think had that in them. It was a shock for me, I hadn’t heard them talking like that before, but the poems brought something out of them and you could see they were enjoying it, and they were all talking together and listening to one another. You don’t usually get that here.
Even more encouraging is the feedback we have had from residents themselves who talk about how poetry has had a positive effect on their mood or state of mind:
I like this…I like it because sometimes when I’m a bit lost I can’t think about it, but this helps me to go through and see it there and think.
Reading group member, Redholme Memory Care Home
In light of these outcomes, we have established a research partnership with the University of Liverpool and we are working to secure funding to further explore the benefits of reading to people living with dementia.
We are also delivering training for care home staff so that they can deliver GIR groups and one to one reading sessions with the people they work with and incorporate them into their practice, creating a sustainable model.
At the end of this month, our first book A Little, Aloud: An anthology of poetry and prose for reading aloud to someone you care for is being published. This is a selection of the very best prose and poetry chosen especially for reading aloud, all tried and tested by us and with lively reading notes and ideas based on actual discussions from our ‘Get Into Reading’ groups. Fiona Phillips, who has spoken out about caring for her parents, who both developed dementia, has commended the book saying
Reading aloud brings health and happiness: guaranteed! I urge you to buy this book, read the wonderful (and funny, surprising, thought-provoking) pieces collected here to someone you care for and see the results for yourself.
It is our hope that this book will provide inspiration for family members, friends and care staff to share some time reading aloud with someone they care for and talking together about what they read. It is a small but significant way in which we can all take action and brighten the day of someone living with dementia. It would be a wonderful thing, if by World Alzheimer’s Day 2011 we could see the positive impact being had in care homes across the country through shared reading.
To find out more/order your copy of A Little, Aloud click here...
All royalties in full go to The Reader Organisation.