Welcome to Dementia Awareness Week 2022, Alzheimer Scotland’s annual awareness raising campaign. We must acknowledge that we come to Dementia Awareness Week on the back of two of the most difficult years for the dementia community, and as we slowly move out of the pandemic, Alzheimer Scotland continues to focus on all we can do to support people living with dementia and their families and carers.
The theme for this year’s Dementia Awareness Week is centred around the themes of Prevent, Care, Cure, and forms not only the focus for the week but indeed our vision moving forward as we collectively recover from the enormous impact of the pandemic.
Our work on the Prevent theme has been greatly enhanced by the development of our Brain Health Scotland initiative. We will begin to merge brain health support and interventions into the core of our frontline support, and on Wednesday 1 June, we will formally launch our first new Brain Health & Dementia Resource Centre in Alloa. The Centre will provide support for people living with dementia and their families and carers, and anyone interested in finding out more about brain health. We know so much more nowadays about what impacts brain health and we know our risk of developing the diseases which can lead to dementia is driven by many different factors. Some of these things we can't change, such as our family history, but many of things we and indeed society can, such as the lifestyle circumstances people find themselves in. The Centre will have a drop in facility for people to find out more about reducing risks and getting support. Our mission is to inspire and empower people to protect their brain health and reduce the risk of diseases that lead to dementia. Alzheimer Scotland has 22 Dementia Resource Centres across Scotland, the Alloa Centre is the first to introduce a brain health hub, and we will expand this into all of our Centres in the near future.
The core of our work is, and always will be, Care. That includes providing as much frontline support and services that we can in order to make sure nobody faces dementia alone. Alongside this, we will never falter in our campaigning and influencing work to ensure meaningful improvements, equality and changes across all of health and social care services, and society in general, for the benefit of people with dementia and their families and carers. There is no question their needs have greatly increased because of the pandemic and the social care crisis. We know through our frontline staff and Helpline team the severity of the pressures people are living with, both in terms of waiting for a dementia diagnosis and subsequently receiving post diagnostic support, and for families and carers looking for assessments, reassessments and home care packages.
A timely diagnosis of dementia and the support which follows that is clearly vitally important, which is why the news that Scottish Government increased their investment into Post Diagnostic Support (PDS) was so welcomed. After ten years plus of demonstrating the effectiveness of our Post Diagnostic Five Pillar Model, we are pleased that at long last the additional investment should provide an adequate level of Link Workers to ensure every person receiving a diagnosis is provided with this vital form of support.
This is a good place to start, but so much more needs to be done in order to help support people through this crisis. Alzheimer Scotland is calling for any person who is waiting for care services, supports or assessments as a result of a lack of staff or care services to be offered a flexible direct payment. One that will enable them to offset the additional pressures of caring by being able to flexibly use this money in other areas of their life such as with shopping, cleaning, respite and short breaks. We know how well this can work through our recent Time for You fund, which was funded by the Scottish Government. We want to see this scaled up and offered as a positive option in each local area until such times as we get through this social care crisis.
Our final theme is Cure. In recent years, we have worked with and supported an exceptional group of academics and research institutions through the Scottish Dementia Research Consortium (SDRC) and directly funding two research centres. The consortium provides a level of collaboration on all aspects of brain health and dementia research that is world leading, and we aim to build on this. Our funding has also supported an Alzheimer Scotland Brain Tissue Bank in Edinburgh. This has been instrumental in numerous research projects and we want to continue to grow this and work with the significant brain tissue experts throughout Scotland.
In these difficult and challenging days, we need to be optimistic and hopeful of finding new drugs, new treatments and new approaches to improving care practices. Research is that beacon of hope, and this year we will launch a new and innovative research fellowship programme, one that will be driven and, rather uniquely, decided upon by people with dementia and their families. We will launch this new programme in September, and I am extremely pleased and proud that our partners in the Scottish Dementia Working Group and the National Dementia Carers Action Network will lend their depth of experience and understanding to lead us in this quest for hope - and ultimately a cure.
Thank you to everyone participating in Dementia Awareness Week 2022, your support to raise awareness is appreciated and invaluable.