CLLR LINFORTH-HALL: LET'S GET SERIOUS ABOUT TACKLING DEMENTIA

Cathedrals ward councillor Maria Linforth-Hall has committed herself to better understanding dementia and its sufferers following her visit to an Alzheimer’s Society conference.

Cllr Linforth-Hall undertook training before the event to become a ‘Dementia Friend’ – and now aims to become an expert on the issue by training as a Champion in Dementia.

Commenting, Cllr Linforth-Hall said:

I know through my casework as a Councillor how many problems sufferers and their carers have to struggle with. Their lives are very hard, and I want to do all I can to help.”

Every councilor meets with the residents of their ward and beyond. We will, therefore, be meeting people with dementia, their carers and family members. By understanding what challenges and difficulties are faced by people with dementia, we can use our local powers to design services, support carers and make our areas dementia friendly environments.”

Southwark Council has previously pledged money to help with dementia awareness, including funding a dementia cafe in South Bermondsey.

Nationally, Liberal Democrats have been calling for a new ‘right to respite’ package with an annual carer’s bonus of £250 for full-time carers. This would allow them at least a small amount of respite from caring, enabling them to recharge their batteries.

What is dementia?

Dementia is caused by lots of different diseases of the brain. Alzheimer’s is one of them. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing, though you are more likely to get it if you’re over 65.

Southwark has relatively low levels of dementia due to its younger-than-average demographics – however it is a problem that is predicted to grow quickly over time. In 2007 there were 1563 sufferers in the borough. Latest figures (2013) show that has risen to 1733 – a rise of 10% over 6 years.

It is estimated that Dementia will affect 850,000 people in Britain by 2015. And it is not generally realised that this is a problem that does not only affect older people. Men and women of all ages may become sufferers. The total cost of dementia to society in the UK, including healthcare costs, social care and the contribution of unpaid carers, is £26.3 billion.

What is needed:

  • At a council level, more awareness training is needed for councillors and relevant council staff – as well as amongst businesses in Southwark.

  • Southwark’s high streets need to become more dementia-friendly – with information to businesses about how to deal considerately with people suffering from dementia (for example, better signage; recognising the signs of dementia if people can’t remember their PIN; helping people who are having difficulty communicating effectively).

  • The council should consider more activities in leisure centres aimed at people with dementia. Council facilities should also be reviewed to make sure they are suitable for users suffering from dementia (e.g. better signage).

  • Every sufferer and their unpaid carer should be allocated to a dedicated link worker to support them. It can often become very confusing for sufferers to deal with multiple contacts.