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Time to call out dementia friendly cronyism


Whenever there is a restricted number of participants in a crowded market, the quality of the product tends to fall as the participants collude with another.

The botched performance of Carillion is a reminder that it’s often the same people on the same management boards of the same companies supposedly competing with another. And it’s the same for certain charities, with the same workforce with different operating brands, simply faking diversity, but in reality offering zilch thought diversity.

Dementia is not of course political, unless you include the ‘chosen ones’ performing very well in the Queen’s Honours List. I really feel it’s time to call out the nonsense of certain ‘dementia friendly’ brands, such as ‘dementia friendly emergency departments’.

I actually have no ideological objection to an enhanced ‘customer experence’ of a patient in an emergency department, but the hijacking of ‘dementia friendly’ a certain way has led to this construct meaning a better customer experience rather than, say, promoting the health of people with dementia and care partners.

There is a ridiculous secondary gain for charities to award scarce resources to fund research into dementia friendly emergency departments so that a few press releases can go out to comfort us all. Forget people with dementia dying while waiting for hours for an ambulance. Ignore people with dementia waiting for hours on a trolley waiting for a hospotial bed, or waiting for hours for transport to go home.

I am basically appalled by how relaxed some principal investigators in research, who are regulated by professional bodies, appear to be in declaring their financial competing interests when publishing academic papers, particularly in areas where these interests affect diagnosis or treatment of dementias.

I am worried how regulated professionals do not appear comfortable about speaking out about unsafe level of resources for dementia care, particularly if they are worried about their research monies being threatened.

The sheer contempt for specialists in dementia seems to predate the hatred of experts which accompanied the Brexit debate. For example, I don’t feel that the culture is healthy enough for us all to have a meaningful debate without causing offence and outrage about the difference between minimal cognitive impairment and dementia, or the heterogeneity within dementia, when I know of at least two people with dementia who will have published books on living with dementia by the end of next year.

The atmosphere really has become quite threatening for some specialists now afraid to voice opinions, with tropes such as ‘people with dementia and care partners are the real experts’. As it happens, I am a full time carer of someone living with dementia too. But it worries me that in the forthcoming APPG consultation on ‘dementia rights’, something I myself wrote a book chapter on in 2015, it will be exactly the same usual suspects, with exactly the same ‘empowerment and engagement’ causing exactly the same stale predictable narrative.

But we do need people to speak out on important issues, on why certain people find it so difficult to obtain an assessment for legal power of attorney following diagnosis, or how people with dementia might interact with the law if it feels that certain decisions need to be made in their ‘best interests’.

We need to discuss whether people have equitable access to medical and legal opinions. Simply airbrushing these discussions due to convenient pseudo-consultations which don’t ask the right questions from certain people, because of dementia friendly cronyism, is not right.

I think the atmosphere of how dementia care and research are evolving is really not right at the moment, and needs urgent attention. It’s when it’s a case of ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you can contribute’ then you need to worry.

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