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Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness

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Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness is Alzheimer’s Society’s second annual report looking at the quality of life for people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Like Dementia 2012: A national challenge, it provides a snapshot of how well people are living with their dementia, what support they are receiving, and what barriers they face to living well. 

The evidence presented in Dementia 2013 shows that some progress has been made towards improving the quality of life for people with dementia and carers since 2012.  However, Dementia 2013 acknowledges that progress has been slow, and there is still much to be done to ensure that the policy is reflected in the experiences of people with dementia in all care settings. 

Dementia 2013 also focuses on the impact of loneliness and social isolation on people living with the condition, particularly for those living alone. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of people with dementia surveyed said they felt anxious or depressed. A third of people with dementia said they had lost friends, and 5% said they have not told their friends about their diagnosis.   Of those living alone, nearly two-thirds (62%) of people with dementia reported feeling lonely.

What did the report find? Dementia 2013

There have been some developments which have had a positive impact on the quality of life of people with dementia:

  • 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a diagnosis.  This has increased from last year, but by only 3%.
  • In England, the mandate from the government to the NHS Commissioning Board includes an objective to make measurable progress on improving the rates of timely diagnosis.
  • The number of inappropriate prescriptions for antipsychotic medication to people with dementia had been reduced by 52% between 2008 and 2011.
  • In England in 2013, there are 64 Dementia Adviser services.  In 2012, there were 35.

On the other hand, there is still work to do to ensure that the policies are turned into practice.  The research found that people with dementia are lonely and socially isolated:

  • Approaching two-thirds (61%) of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland say they are living well with dementia. However, 17% said that they are not living well with dementia – the same number as chose this option last year. 
  • A third (33%) of people with dementia said they lost friends following a diagnosis.
  • More than a third (39%) of people with dementia responding to the survey said they felt lonely. Only a quarter (24%) of over 55s in the general public said they have felt lonely in the last month. 
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of people with dementia who live on their own said they felt lonely. Difficulties in maintaining social relationships and others features of dementia contributed to this.

What is Alzheimer’s Society campaigning for?

Good health and social care for people with dementia - from before diagnosis until end of life – remains an essential aspect of good quality of life. Momentum must be maintained on improvements. To achieve this, Alzheimer’s Society campaigns for a well-funded social care system offering high quality, appropriate services that drive up quality of life for people with dementia.

Given the breadth of quality of life issues that must be addressed to ensure that people live well with the condition, Alzheimer’s Society believes that we must continue to work together to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. For example, local authorities can commission services such as befriending services or dementia cafés which could tackle social isolation and loneliness.  However, Alzheimer’s Society is also encouraging businesses and organisations to commit to becoming dementia friendly.  This includes developing Dementia Friendly Communities in Northern Ireland and Dementia Supportive Communities in Wales.

The Society also wants to see the public, including friends and family members of people with dementia, engaging with the Dementia Friends programme, giving them the confidence to interact more fully with people they know with dementia, and people they meet who they may suspect have cognitive difficulties.

Dementia 2013 facts Infographic

Take a look at the key statistics about dementia from the Dementia 2013 report, represented in a visual way.

The hidden voice of loneliness

Dementia 2013 The hidden voice of loneliness