Alzheimer ’s disease remains a significant cause of dementia in individuals. Dementia refers to a general decline in mental functioning in an individual that interferes with daily living. Dementia is often associated with memory loss. However, memory loss is only one means by which this tragic disease affects individuals and their loved ones (Alzheimer’s Association, 2013). As with all chronic diseases, health education remains a crucial method of reducing mortality and morbidity. As the population ages, more individuals are likely to suffer from dementia. The Hywel Dda Local Health Board serves the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. They estimate that in their area, cases of dementia will increase by 38% between 2010 and 2012 (Hywel Dda Local Health Board, 2013). Due to the expected increase in the incidence and prevalence of the disease, it becomes increasingly crucial to educate health care workers, individuals and communities about Alzheimer symptoms and treatments for it. As with all chronic diseases, health promotion offers a significant means to reduce the impact Alzheimer ’s disease has on its population.
The local health board is currently conducting a campaign to reduce the burden of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for their citizens. Recently, they conducted a Dementia Awareness Week during the week of May 19 through May 26. During this period, volunteers handed out leaflets on dementia at information stands at hospitals and other primary care centers. The current campaign revolves around the concept of “talking.” The motto is “Worrying Changes Nothing, Talking Changes Everything.” The volunteers also worked on the education of health care workers, as well as the public. The health board is working to integrate the various advocacy groups and health care centers. They state “no one with a long term condition, such as dementia, should be admitted unexpectedly to hospital with that condition” (Hywel Dda Local Health Board, 2013).
The Alzheimer’s Society also has an outreach programme for individuals suffering from dementia and their families and friends. The Society uses pamphlets to discuss the support programmes offered for these individuals. The website offers legal and financial assistance regarding Alzheimer’s disease. This is an important, but often overlooked aspect of health outreach. Their website also provides useful information concerning support, as well as treatment and research. Individuals may enter a postal code to find assistance within a certain geographic area. The Alzheimer’s Society also provides leaflets for health boards and primary care locations (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013). The site also offers a link to a vital programme called Dementia Friends.
This group works to train the trainers. Through these educators, the programme can widely disperse information regarding dementia and the effects it has on individuals and the community. It also offers ways to assist individuals living with dementia. Their website also informs the public about five essential facts regarding dementia. These facts are “dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. It is not just about losing your memory. It’s possible to live well with it. There is more to the person than the dementia” (Dementia Friends, 2013). This small part of its information remains some of the most crucial to inform the public regarding dementia. Sadly, many individuals do assume that dementia is a natural aspect of aging. Due to this misconception, individuals may not seek early intervention and treatment for themselves or for family members suffering from it. The outreach programme offers a wonderful concept beyond the education of health care workers and the patients. It works to create “dementia-friendly communities.”
Individuals are more comfortable remaining in their own homes, rather than seeking full-time custodial care. Therefore, the communities must be encouraged to support this ideal. This outreach programme focuses on “improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia” through the development of these communities (Dementia Friends, 2013). Dementia-friendly communities are educated concerning dementia. This indicates that the majority of individuals living within it are aware of the basic aspects of dementia and how it affects individuals. These communities encourage inclusion of individuals suffering from dementia. They do not isolate these individuals. By increasing awareness of dementia within the community, the majority of its residents would be more likely to increase this inclusion.
Overall, the outreach and education programmes available provide effective means of outreach to the community. The Dementia Friends programme offers a tremendous service to the community. Its attempt to educate individuals and health care workers is wonderful. However, it moves its outreach programme to a greater scale in its attempts to create dementia-friendly communities. This concept should be utilized by all programmes aimed at reducing the suffering caused by dementia.
However, as with all programmes, there is always room for improvement. Outreach is often the only means by which the elderly population is reached (The Community Tool Box, 2013). Predominantly Alzheimer’s disease affects this segment of the population. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the outreach chosen is the most effective and efficient method. It also must consider all the needs of the population. These programmes currently do not offer effective outreach for all the needs associated with dementia. Since dementia often can result in significant financial and legal issues, more of the resources should offer assistance on this aspect of the care. Individuals with dementia need guidance on the proper handling of their finances and legal concerns. It appears not all of the programmes offer this. The week of focus on dementia and the needs of its sufferers did not include this vital information. The Dementia Friends programme also does not appear to make this a meaningful aspect of its education and outreach. This is a significant lapse in the outreach programmes. The programme should also offer greater assistance in finding volunteers to help the sufferers of dementia and their family members. Obviously, individuals with dementia may need assistance at home during times when family members and friends are not available. Individuals in the community should receive more encouragement to volunteer with dementia programmes. By focusing more on these aspects of care, the programmes would strengthen their outreach to the community. The goal should be an outreach programme that affects and strengthens the entire community, not just isolated groups of individuals. Also, the period used for Dementia Awareness may not be adequate. Between the programmes, it appears there is a one-week period of Dementia Awareness. This time frame should be increased to offer outreach to the community for longer periods or more frequent periods of time. Obviously, individuals are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease throughout the year. The predicted increase in incidence and prevalence also indicates that there will be increased needs for outreach. Therefore, in the coming years, these agencies should significantly consider offering a Dementia Awareness Month, or perhaps a bi-monthly use of information booths at hospitals and other health care locations. This would increase their visibility within the community. By increasing the visibility within these areas, community members may be more inclined to donate their time and money to this vital need. It would also move towards the ultimate goal of creating the dementia-friendly communities. These communities could greatly help decrease the burden of dementia on the health care system, as well as those who suffer from dementia and their loved ones.
- Alzheimer’s Association, 2013. Dementia. [online] Available at: < http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp> [Accessed 31 May 2013]
- Alzheimer’s Society, 2013. Leading the fight against dementia. [online] Available at: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/index.php [Accessed 31 May 2013]
- Dementia Friends, 2013. Make life better for people with dementia. [online] Available at: http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/ [Accessed 31 May 2013]
- Hywel Dda Local Health Board (2013, May 28). News [online[ Available at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/862/news/27428 [Accessed 1 June 2013]
- The Community Tool Box, 2013. Using outreach to increase access. [online]. Available at: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1876.aspx. [ Accessed 31 May 2013.]