Dementia to become major priority for Suffolk health and wellbeing board

Alan Murray

Alan Murray - Credit: Archant

Public health officials in Suffolk are being urged to make the care of people with dementia one of their priorities, as new figures predict an extra 3,500 people will be living with the condition over the next decade.

A number of initiatives and projects are in place to support sufferers and their families, but a new report has suggested there is still more that can be done.

The document, due to be discussed by Suffolk’s health and wellbeing board next week, sets out the aim of making the county “dementia friendly”, helping people with dementia feel safe and healthy.

It comes as latest figures estimate there are just under 12,000 people in Suffolk living with the condition, which causes memory loss and impaired judgement.

By 2024, this figure is expected to jump 33% to more than 15,900.

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Alan Murray, county council cabinet member for health and adult care, said the figures have led to the issue being a key priority for the board.

He added: “There are already plenty of positive examples where we are working with Suffolk communities to support people affected by the condition, from family carers to those who have been diagnosed with dementia including the Hadleigh Dementia Action Alliance working towards a dementia friendly Hadleigh and the well-established Debenham Project (for family carers of dementia sufferers).

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“Our vision is to become a dementia friendly county, which means providing the best possible care and support, and helping people to live well with dementia for as long as possible, ultimately avoiding admission to hospital and residential care.”

The new report has highlighted the work done by organisations such as the Dementia Project, which comprises of Age UK Suffolk, Suffolk Family Carers and Sue Ryder, to provide early support.

It has also stated that the board can provide leadership, support and assistance to the development of dementia-friendly communities, a move widely welcomed by organisations working with sufferers.

Jo Marshall, centre director at Ipswich’s Sue Ryder The Chantry, said: “It is an absolutely devastating condition. I think a lot of people feel very frightened and can feel very isolated. It doesn’t just affect the person with the condition, it affects the carer and the people around that person.”

She added: “We know from the demographics that there is going to be a huge increase in the numbers that need this support.

“I would certainly welcome this commitment and I am sure it will be welcomed by other charities as well.”

As well as various support groups, a number of other projects have been launched in recent years. One of the most publicised initiatives recently was a 50s style village being set up in the grounds of Baylham Care Centre.

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