Cormac’s view: pharmacy’s role in fighting dementia

Our managing director Cormac Tobin talks about the role community pharmacy can play in supporting people living with dementia. 

It’s a scary word, dementia. Over 850,000 people in the UK are living with the condition, and that’s projected to grow to over 1 million by 2025. It’s an increasing concern and many of us have seen the impact it can have on our loved ones.

In the past there’s been a misconception about what dementia actually is. It’s not just about forgetting people’s names or leaving the oven on; it’s a condition that completely changes a person’s life. It involves symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty with thinking clearly, problem solving, language and even physical movement.

The first step in any battle like this is to develop understanding – and then turn that understanding into action. Organisations like Alzheimer’s Society do fantastic work by providing information, practical and emotional support, but also by investing in world class research with the goal of defeating dementia.

We’ve seen major breakthroughs in the battle against diseases like cancer and HIV in recent years, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t hope for the same in the battle against dementia. It all starts with generating greater awareness and appreciation of the condition.

This is why the Dementia Friends initiative, by Alzheimer’s Society is such a brilliant concept.  It really is as simple as it sounds. You can sign up to become a friend of people with dementia and their carers. It’s all about learning what it means to live with dementia and then making a pledge to be supportive and considerate of these more vulnerable people. So far at Celesio UK we have over 4,150 colleagues signed up to be Dementia Friends, and I have a vision of a completely dementia friendly workforce, with all c25, 000 colleagues on board.

In our partnership with Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland over the last 18 months, I’ve been humbled by the way our colleagues have truly taken the charity to heart. It affects so many people – if it hasn’t impacted your immediate family, it’s probably impacted someone you know. That’s why the cause resonates so powerfully within our business – particularly for our teams in pharmacies who care for many patients with symptoms of dementia every day.

Community pharmacy as a whole industry has a crucial role to play as a support network for people affected by the condition. Many people living with dementia are elderly and many are managing multiple conditions that require different medication. Managing these medicines can be confusing, especially for someone coping with memory loss. Pharmacists are by far the most accessible healthcare professionals around. They’re based in the middle of communities and are well placed to be able to offer the right advice and support for these patients – especially when it comes to safe medicine management.

If people don’t take their medicines correctly, not only do they suffer from the effects of mismanaged conditions, it can result in costly admissions to hospital that put a further burden on our over-stretched NHS.

Pharmacies are a safe and supportive environment for dementia patients and their carers to get the assistance and advice they need to be able to lead more positive, healthy lives.