11th October  2010


Forgetting where we placed our glasses or car keys can happen to any of us, no matter what our age.

We have all had the moment where we walk up to the fridge only to completely forget what we had been looking for, something we would light-heartedly describe as a ‘senior moment’.

But even our own forgetful experiences couldn’t prepare us for the challenge people and families face as they confront the early stages of dementia.

The loss of control and ability to function day to day must be a difficult, frustrating and confidence-sapping experience for people used to enjoying their own independence.

For some time, this hasn’t been helped by the debate over when the drugs that can stabilise the symptoms should be prescribed to those in the early stages of the condition.

Campaigners described the refusal to issue these drugs to all dementia patients as ‘cruel and unethical’.

The drugs, which cost around £2.80 a day, could mean the difference between recognising loved ones and being able to play with grandchildren.

This week, drugs czars relented and agreed to make drugs like Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon available to those with early stage symptoms available in England. I hope there will be no delay in extending this in Scotland.

It means more than 30,000 people will get the benefit of these drugs and enjoy a better quality of life.

Sadly, there is no miracle cure for dementia conditions and it presents a tough situation, not just for patients but families and carers.

But we can take some comfort from the fact we have good services here in Inverclyde, such as the highly-praised Dunrod unit at Ravenscraig Hospital, and the Inverclyde day care project based at Larkfield View, which I visited recently to mark World Alzheimer’s Day.

People with dementia are some of the most vulnerable in society and in this development this week, there is a valuable lesson.

Balancing the books can’t be just about financial costs, we have to measure the human costs.