‘Coping with dementia is almost impossibly hard, the inexorable decline that accompanies it are unspeakably harrowing for all concerned. And with around 800,000 people already suffering from some form of the disease, and nearly 2 million expected to do so by 2050, the numbers are frightening. Even more alarming – as has been starkly revealed by this newspaper’s series on dementia this week – is the inability of Britain’s health and social care system to cope with the problem.
At its most basic, the difficulty is one of definition. Dementia is an illness that is so sprawling and still so widely misunderstood that our outdated categories for illness and infirmity have not caught up. Unless aggressive enough to be acknowledged as a mental health problem, it is considered to be an issue of social care alone, no different from any of the other frailties that go with old age. The result is sufferers all too often shuttled from one inappropriate facility to another, “a piece of lost luggage on a dementia carousel”, as an Independent writer described her father’s traumatic experiences.’