New Norfolk and Waveney dementia alliance
A new initiative to tackle one of the biggest scourges of old age is being launched in Norfolk and Waveney where the number of elderly people is growing every year.
Dementia is recognised as one of the biggest health and social challenges in the country, with the number of sufferers predicted to rise by 51 per cent within the next 15 years. But in Norfolk the number is expected to increase by 62pc in that time - pushing the total to above 20,000 - and in Suffolk by 65pc.
The Norwich and Waveney Dementia Alliance will bring together some of the biggest health, social and education organisations to seek out the best research, ideas, technology and training to make East Anglia a leader, nationally and internationally, in dementia care.
As well as helping families to deal with dementia and providing better care, it could have a real impact in making health service money for social care go further as well as cutting bed-blocking in hospitals.
And it hopes to take in the rest of Suffolk to become the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance.
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The alliance has looked at population estimates for the two counties and using the prevalence of dementia for each age group has estimated how many people will have the disease in the two counties by 2025 - and the figures underline the challenges facing individuals and their families, as well as the economy and health services as a whole.
William Cruickshank, of the Norfolk and Waveney Dementia Alliance, said the work would focus on helping to identify those with dementia and raise awareness of the illness.
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He said: 'Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.
'People think you do go 'do-lally' as you get older but dementia is a physical degenerative disease of the brain and it is not ageing.
'At the moment there are between three and four thousand people who have been diagnosed with dementia in Norfolk. We think it's nearer 13,000 people who actually have dementia and that 10,000 haven't been diagnosed.
'The speed of diagnosis is perceived not to matter, but it can mean getting people a better support network earlier to help them think about changing lifestyles.
'We need to do things significantly to improve the diagnosis rate.
'People can get dementia as early as their 40s and they might go through 20 years of having it before it gets to the stage where they are diagnosed.
'We need to investigate why our diagnoses rate is as low as it is and that's something we will be asking professionals and the public to help us understand.'
David Edwards, chairman of NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, who is also chairing the partnership behind the alliance, said: 'Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia and it's going to increase.
'We are talking about education for relatives, family members, carers, volunteers as well as health and social care professionals - it will be an army.'
Laura Meadowcroft, of the Norfolk branch of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'We have got lots of pockets of good practice but nobody is talking to anybody else and it is not being shared across the county. This can make Norfolk become the leading light for dementia care, with the rest of the country following us.
'I think the problem is so significant in Norfolk we really have to be the people that are leading and have to look at what we are doing now to prevent it becoming a problem in the future.
'We are predicted to have a higher than average increase by 2025 and it's huge numbers of people with dementia to be looking after. If we don't prepare ourselves and bring all this thinking together then we are never going to be able to cope with that increase.'