'Don't become complacent with falling dementia figures

“Dementia risk in UK going down, suggests study”

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You may have seen the recent article on the BBC website that suggested the 'Dementia risk in UK going down' and wondered how this could be.  For the past six years we have been highlighting the growing numbers of people living with dementia, and planning for a future where the number of people who are living with dementia is anticipated to nearly double what it is currently within a 20 year span.  We have contemplated what that means for health and social care in this country and of course what it might mean for us personally or for our loved ones. So now can we put away our dementia strategies and stop worrying about our memories?

Growing aging population

Projections about the prevalence of dementia in Scotland are based on the trends and populations of past generations.  What this means is that projections are really just educated guesses about what the future may hold based on what happened in the past. The picture that is beginning to emerge about the future of dementia prevalence is that it is not going to be so easy to predict, as it is being positively impacted by advances in our knowledge and treatment of known contributing risk factors (like heart disease, and stroke), but we don’t yet know how health conditions which are on the rise, like diabetes and obesity (which appear to have links with dementia), may impact the prevalence of dementia for future generations.  Even the impact of recent trends in diet and lifestyle, quality and availability of medical services or environmental factors in one region versus another may impact the prevalence of dementia that we see from one part of the country to the next. 

Delivering excellence in dementia care

Though we may not know exactly how many people will have dementia in the future, one thing is certain; we cannot let up on efforts to build our dementia services for the future.   We may at this time be seeing the fruits of our labours in targeting known risk factors that can be controlled, but there are many risk factors that we do not yet fully understand, nor are we able to control.  We need to continue to shape our services to meet the challenges of the future and tailor them for the changing expectations of future generations.  We must continue to ask ourselves, “If it was my mother”, “If it was me” and strive to raise our standards and expectations for quality, rights- based care, meaningful opportunities and continued community engagement.  Because preparing our services for the future is about more than the creation of beds or jobs, it is about creating communities that support people’s expectations for how they want to live their lives.