Health plans to combat dementia increase in Norfolk

Proposals have been drawn up to help deal with Norfolk's 'ticking time-bomb' – a predicted sharp rise in the number of people in the county suffering from dementia.

Norfolk's health and social services have finalised a plan intended to help them diagnose the disease earlier and support families facing the difficult task of caring for loved ones who are affected.

They are currently in the process of deciding how best to implement the strategy, but have revealed some of their proposals to the Eastern Daily Press.

Meanwhile, mental health bosses, who oversee treatment of those suffering from the most severe dementia cases, will next month begin work on a pioneering Dementia Intensive Care Unit.

As well as providing clinical care for the most severe cases, it is hoped the centre will act as an academy for dementia training, education and research.

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The move comes amid fears of the impact of a predicted steep rise in the number of people with the condition.

In 2008, the number of people aged 65 and over in Norfolk estim-ated to have dementia stood at 12,714. By 2025 this figure is predicted to rise to 20,312 – a 62pc increase, compared with a predicted national increase of 51pc. This is likely to lead to an increased demand for support services, such as home help or at specialist centres.

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The announcement comes a few days after health secretary Andrew Lansley told the EDP that caring for older people would be one of the key challenges facing the county, because of the number of people who choose to retire here.

Meanwhile, a Norfolk charity last night said new and innovative projects were desperately needed to cope with the increased demand on such services.

Steve McCormack, NHS Norfolk's commissioning manager for mental health, said: 'The Norfolk Dementia Strategy is a high-level strategic plan which won resounding endorsement during public consultation.

'We have adopted the aims and aspirations contained in the strategy and we are now working with stakeholders, GPs and our partners in social care and the voluntary sector to implement them.

'In Norfolk there are about 3,500 people known to have dementia but we anticipate there may be around 11,000 because there are people who are currently undiagnosed.'

If they can be diagnosed with dementia earlier they can be helped to plan and adjust their lifestyles to give them greater independence and prevent inappropriate hospital admissions. We call this 'living well with dementia'.'

As part of the strategy, the Alzheimers Society is being funded to provide five part-time dementia advisors.

These advisors will work in communities across Norfolk, to support patients who are newly diagnosed and their families to find the information and services they need.

The charity itself is aware of how much still needs to be done to improve the lot of people with dementia and their families.

Laura Meadowcroft, locality manager for the Alzheimer's Society in Norfolk, said: 'Dementia is a degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. People lose their ability to communicate and perform daily tasks, ultimately rendering them dependent on full-time care.

'New and innovative projects are desperately needed to cope with the increased demand on such services. Care that focuses on the needs of the individual, and settings tailored to dementia care are essential.'

NHS Norfolk says it is also rolling out 'integrated care teams', which offer older and more frail patients greater support for their health social care needs closer to home and is looking at whether a 'dementia champion' role could be created to help identify patients earlier.

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