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Dementia Action Week – raising awareness and supporting people with dementia

Posted: 25/05/2018


This week is Dementia Action Week, an initiative to raise awareness of this disease which affects around 850,000 people in the UK. Up to 25 million of us either know a family member or close friend with dementia and Dementia Awareness Week is aimed at making life easier for sufferers and carers by encouraging others to take a few basic steps to help.

What is dementia?

Dementia refers to a range of conditions that lead to a deterioration in brain function. The symptoms include memory loss, behavioural changes, impaired judgement, problems with movement and difficulty controlling emotions. Common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure for dementia at the moment, but if diagnosed in the early stages, the progression can be slowed and mental function preserved. Many people are able live independently in the early stages of dementia, and with help and assistance in their daily routines can continue to do so for many years.

What can I do?

Dementia sufferers can become confused and agitated, particularly in unfamiliar surroundings and the Alzheimer’s Society gives some tips to help:

  • ask people if they need assistance if they look confused or lost – sometimes a helping hand or an explanation is all people need;
  • ask questions and learn about dementia – helping people feel understood and having the confidence to ask questions will gradually help make talking about dementia part of our everyday life;
  • take the time to listen to dementia sufferers and their families. Living with dementia should not mean being ignored or left out of conversations;
  • be there for carers and loved ones as well as sufferers themselves – caring for, living with and supporting people with dementia can be difficult and tiring. Offering a hand to family members and friends can be valuable too;
  • carry on inviting people out after their diagnosis – support can be as simple as continuing to include people in a friendship group.

Could you take a step further and become a Dementia Friend? Dementia Friends sessions are run to help others understand dementia and to encourage dementia friendly communities.

Dementia friendly communities are towns and villages where people with dementia are understood and supported. Dementia Action Alliance is a network of local support groups which work to improve accessibility, promote awareness and provide signposting to local initiatives.

Medico-legal issues with dementia

Penningtons Manches deals with a number of claims involving elderly patients, many of whom suffer from dementia and other cognitive problems. The claims can be complex from the perspective of identifying the degree to which pre-existing conditions may be exacerbated, for instance by trauma or unnecessary anaesthetics.

These clients often require the assistance of a litigation friend – normally a relative who deals with the litigation process on behalf of the claimant, and if a person’s dementia means that they do not have capacity to deal with any damages they receive at the end of the process, the court needs to be involved to instruct how the damages are managed in the claimant’s best interests.

A specialist subteam at Penningtons Manches handles claims involving elderly patients and the Court of Protection team deals with issues of capacity and financial management.

Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in the firm’s clinical negligence team, commented: “Dementia Action Week gives us all an opportunity to take a small, or big, step towards understanding this conditions and to making our community a safer place for some of society’s most vulnerable people. The first step towards caring for people better is to understand their needs.“


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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP