I am writing following the G8 Dementia Summit which took place in London last month and which set out a number of guidelines and targets, including nations across the world agreeing to fund research and development to find a cure or treatment for the condition by 2028. Although this outcome is certainly excellent news, much of the focus is on treatment and cure, rather than diagnosis, and with diagnosis rates shockingly low in England (around 45%) I firmly believe that more needs to be done to ensure sufferers receive appropriate support.
Across England, 670,000 people are living with dementia, and this figure is set to double in the next 30 years. With a cure unlikely to be discovered any time soon, other avenues need to be explored such as early diagnosis or identifying those who may be more inclined to develop the illness to ensure a good quality of life. Without a proper diagnosis, those living with the condition can’t receive the appropriate support, information, and care, and may be confused and frightened about the symptoms they are experiencing.
Unfortunately, current medical diagnosis relies heavily of the subjective interpretation of a doctor, and as many as one in five can be wrongly diagnosed. For this reason, it is essential medical staff are thoroughly trained to spot the symptoms of dementia and provided with the correct treatment and after-diagnosis support. A simple mental agility test could also help and provide an indication of those who are most at risk through early cognitive impairment. Although a treatment or cure is on the horizon, diagnosis should be the main focus in the time being, so that patients do not suffer any more than they need to.
Dr Hannah MacKechnie
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