A study by the Alzheimer’s Society finds that nine out of 10 dementia carers are stressed, anxious or depressed.   No shock there, Sherlock.  Your average family doctor could have told you that, years ago. He would also have emphasized that many carers find it impossible to access help and support, and ‘when they do, they face waiting times of more than a year.’[i]

He might have added that  this lack of support was the reason that he, and most GPs, resisted the call (and the £55 bribe) to push people for EARLY instead of TIMELY diagnoses.  Especially with the increased risk of misdiagnosis.  But risk aside, a survey of GPs by the Royal College of GPs late last year showed that the ‘tailored care and support’ that was the rationale for early diagnosis is simply not there for 7 out of 10 dementia sufferers and their carers.

Late last year Prime Minister David Cameron promised that all Councils would be obliged to provide psychological and practical help to caregivers, even allowing them to continue to stay in work and in education.  Significantly, there was no mention of funding.   And it doesn’t look like it’s happening, does it?

Now the Alzheimer’s Society and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust have launched a trial of an online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programme, called,’ Caring for Me and You’.  The hope is that it can help caregivers’ mental health. Perhaps ‘mental’, should read ‘emotional’, because it’s the culmination of negative emotions that causes dementia caregiver burden, and it can result in physical symptoms so severe that years are shaved off lives.

I’ve seen some great results from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. But if there’s anything research – and our experience shows, it’s that dementia caregivers need people.  They need a listening ear, someone empathetic who can be there for them.  Someone who can share their grief, if only for a moment.

Psychological support is good as far as it goes – but it isn’t half as powerful as the work of the Holy Spirit.  For Christian believers, the most important element is genuine spiritual support.  People tell us how Christians coming alongside have made all the difference in the world.  Their support has encouraged, strengthened and comforted.  Even just knowing that there is a believer at the end of the phone, someone who will take their needs to the pastoral team for help, and for the church to lift in prayer.  It’s REAL, this support, not a distanced, sticking plaster approach.

How to do it is described in the book, DEMENTIA: PATHWAYS TO HOPE, and in the information pack, HELPING TO PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER.  You can get them both from www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk

[i] Daily Express, Thursday, February 4, 2016

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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