Alzheimer's Society's work on the early diagnosis campaign
Dementia diagnosis rates remain far too low but the Society is improving public awareness and understanding among professionals. Campaigns Officer Chris Kirby reports on how we're making a difference.
Of the 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK, less than half have the diagnosis they need to access the support, information and potential treatments that can help them to live well with their condition.
What is the Society doing?
In order to increase public awareness of the early signs of dementia, the Society has been running the flagship awareness-raising campaign Worried about your memory? since 2008. This campaign aims to raise public awareness of the early signs and symptoms of dementia and encourages people to visit their GP if they have concerns about their memory.
Working to develop professionals' understanding of dementia is also central to the campaign. Local teams regularly engage with health professionals in their areas and on two occasions pharmacies have also been used to distribute our information. Online learning resources have been developed to support GPs in the diagnosis and management of dementia, and a reference group of GPs provides advice to the Society.
What are the next steps?
Alzheimer's Society has launched two pilot projects, one in Dorset and another in Warwickshire. These aim to provide the Society with evidence about how to improve diagnosis rates of dementia and involve:
- raising public awareness using materials from our Worried about your memory? campaign
- healthcare professional engagement
- key stakeholder engagement
- targeted local media and marketing work.
The projects will run until March 2013. Their evaluation will inform the development of a programme for future local awareness raising and our national early diagnosis campaign.
The pilots are being carried out by staff and volunteers. Tony Robinson, Lead Volunteer for the Warwickshire pilot says,
'Having had to care for a loved one with dementia has had a profound effect on me. Because of that, I want to make life easier for the thousands of people who will have dementia in the future, and their carers.
'Being involved with a project of this nature goes some way to satisfy that desire, because early diagnosis gives people breathing space. With good advice and guidance they can continue their lifestyle with minimal change and put in contingency plans for the future.'