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G8 Dementia Summit - Missed Opportunity

Author: Chris Moon-Willems

A version of this article was previously published on the Relative Matters website.

Dementia presents the biggest health and social care challenge of a generation and replaces cancer as the disease that people fear most. There are now over 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this number is set to treble over the next 30 years. 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will get dementia at some time in their life.

Dementia does not only affect people in the UK, it has become an international challenge resulting in much attention. 44 million People in the World have Dementia Today, 66 million will have dementia by 2030 and 115 million by 2050.

A G8 Dementia Summit was held in London in December 2013 to discuss the challenges presented by Dementia. This brought together G8 ministers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and charities from around the world. What an opportunity I thought!

Unfortunately the sole focus of the summit was on research, a travesty for all of us involved in promoting living well with dementia and the ‘person centered approach’, which is at the heart of good dementia care.

To make matters worse people living with dementia were exposed to scaremongering rhetoric. We already know that people living with dementia are directly affected by stereotypes and negative attitudes to dementia. The widespread use of military style metaphors – time bombs, battles, victims and fights in addition to media promotion of the term ‘suffering from dementia’ combine to increase fear of the disease for those living with it. This fear exacerbates the isolation and exclusion that people with dementia often feel following diagnosis.

Yes we do need to find a cure for dementia. We also need to find how to put prevent it and how to help people who already have it to live well with dementia. The way we support people to live with dementia is as important as scientific research and medicine.

In a modern society people have a right to live well with dementia not to merely exist with it. Living well with dementia requires courage from the rest of us to think and act in a different way. The myths and stigma that surround dementia need to be challenged and the time to act is now.

Personally, as more and more families are touched by dementia, I am hoping the imperative to change things will gain momentum. I work as an independent care consultant specialising in person-centred approaches to support people living with dementia. I plan to play my part by challenging myths, stereotypes and negative language, informing people about dementia and promoting dementia friendly communities, acting as a Dementia Champion.


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

G8 Dementia Summit - Missed Opportunity © Chris Moon-Willems 2014.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.