YEP Says, September 23: Time to face down the spectre of dementia

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Yesterday the YEP hosted the seventh of its Voice of Leeds summits. The subject of this particular debate was an issue that will affect every single one of us at some point in our lives: dementia.

As reported in the YEP earlier this week, it is estimated that by 2025, 10,000 people in Leeds will be diagnosed with the condition - nearly double the 5,800 diagnosed today. It is something all of us will have to deal with one day - albeit first, second or third hand.

But are we prepared? Are our communities prepared? Is society as a whole prepared?

And what of those who must live with the condition - many of whom still endure the ‘stigma’ and dare not speak out for misplaced shame, embarrassment and often, frankly, a fear of being written off?

How little we know of this condition and of the lives of those who walk ‘in its shadow’.

We fear it, we dread it - we don’t listen to the many stories that show how so many people with the diagnosis go on to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We MUST start talking about it, because only by talking about it, only by facing it down, will its monstrous spectre diminish.

So yesterday was a good day. A diverse group from across the city spoke with one voice of the need for us to be as much dementia-friendly as as we aim to be child-friendly.

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And, critically, the group agreed for the need to ensure those with the diagnosis get their own voices heard.

It is with great pride to note the great work going on in Leeds at a strategic level but also in the grassroots of our communities - where it really, really matters.

We applaud people like Peter Smith, of Dementia Friendly Rothwell, who has set up numerous cafes and social events in the community, who is passionate about raising awareness and the need to change attitudes.

And imagine if every business in the city took steps to receive training for its staff on how to be ‘dementia-friendly’.

What a fantastic that gesture that would be. Surely this is achievable Leeds?

Mr Smith chose to quote the great Abraham Lincoln to reinforce his point at the summit yesterday.

We happily reproduce his words here: ‘You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.’

Let’s start making a difference now.

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