Plymouth dementia expert supports Welsh rural dementia initiative

Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia at Plymouth University and a trustee of the national board of the Alzheimer’s Society, has welcomed the announcement of the All Wales Rural Dementia Group.

There are 17,000 people with dementia in Wales who live in rural areas according to Alzheimer’s Society’s latest report, ‘Dementia in Rural Wales’, released later today at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells. The report will be presented to First Minister Carwyn Jones at a meeting of the Rural Dementia Taskforce, an alliance of stakeholders from across all sectors who aspire to be a voice for people with dementia in rural Wales.

‘Dementia in Rural Wales’ calculates that of the 45,000 people with dementia in Wales, 38 per cent will live in a rural area. Rurality brings about an additional set of challenges for people affected by dementia, there are likely to be less support services commissioned in rural Wales and access can prove difficult as transport links are often poorer.

As a rural nation with a growing, older population, these issues are likely to affect more people over time as age is the biggest risk factor for developing dementia. Lack of support and access to specialist dementia services, combined with age related issues can also increase the likelihood of experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Alzheimer’s Society in Wales, with the support of the Rural Dementia Taskforce, is calling for more to be done to remedy the situation. Alzheimer’s Society, in collaboration with the Rural Dementia Taskforce, is committed to paying its part in tackling these challenges alongside Welsh Government.

‘Dementia in Rural Wales’ makes six recommendations:
1. Welsh Government to invest in research to understand the problem
2. Identify good practice examples from across UK and Europe
3. Seek the lived experiences of people living with dementia and their families
4. Address the challenges of dementia and rurality in the proposed new national dementia strategy for Wales
5. Address dementia in the Welsh Government’s new revised Rural Health Plan
6. Identify links between rural dementia and Welsh language

First Minister Carwyn Jones who launched the report at the Royal Welsh Show today, said: 

“Tackling the loneliness and isolation sadly felt by many people in Wales is one of our top priorities. I am therefore pleased to be here today to launch this report and set out my commitment to helping people in rural Wales who are living with dementia lead more fulfilling and inclusive lives. Our increased investment in dementia services has led to improvements in assessment and treatment, as well as the development of successful new initiatives such as the provision of dementia support workers in the community. However, there is still more to be done and that is why we are continuing to work with the Alzheimer’s Society as we develop our new strategic plan for dementia, which will be issued for consultation later this year.” 

Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales said: 

“We crudely estimate that there are 17,000 people with dementia in rural Wales. However without the statistical evidence to support this; it’s likely this figure is much higher. Research is desperately needed to ascertain the extent of the problem to enable us to plan and deliver effective information, support and care services that are accessible and responsive to need. Alzheimer’s Society has been campaigning for a long time for a national dementia strategy in Wales – rurality needs to factor within that strategy and we hope to continue to work with Welsh Government as part of the Rural Dementia Taskforce to ensure that this happens.” 

Ian Sherriff added: 

“As someone who is totally committed to helping society tackle the many challenges that people with dementia and their carers face daily, I am really excited about the news that Wales is launching the ‘All Wales Rural Dementia Group’. There is widespread recognition at the highest level of the Welsh Government about the present and potential future impacts of dementia. The search for ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected is a constant and complex one. This innovative and exciting group will provide a body of knowledge that has the potential to open up new ways that rural communities can understand and support people with dementia and their carers.”