Understanding dementia is crucial: Dementia Week

If you type the word ‘retirement’ into Google, you will find that stereotypical photos of beaches, older happy couples and holidays feature heavily amongst the results. 

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Rachel East | Head of Advice – Central, Key
21st May 2021
rachel east key
"[No] one wants to think about some of the tougher realities around getting older"

It’s not entirely surprising as people want something to look forward to after a long working life and no one wants to think about some of the tougher realities around getting older.

Sadly, 1 in 14 over-65s will be diagnosed with dementia at some point and 40,000 under the age of 65 are already living with the condition.  So what is dementia and what can the financial services industry do?  Firstly, dementia is not simply becoming a little forgetful – that is a natural part of aging and something that most people will experience at some point.

Dementia is caused by a range of diseases which impact on brain function by causing nerve cells to die as well as damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.  It may be Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia caused by a stroke but each patient experiences it differently and how they react will depend on everything from their family situation to how engaged they are with the available treatment.

What is common is that those with dementia tend to struggle with familiar tasks, may have short-term memory loss and find that they have issues with language or communication.  However, it is entirely possible for those with dementia to live happy, fulfilling lives for longer with the right type of support.

To help more people across the UK better understand dementia and what we can do in our everyday personal and work lives to help people with this disease, the Alzheimer’s Society is promoting Dementia Action Week between the 17 May and the 23 May.

With vulnerability a clear focus for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and organisations required to have robust processes in place to support vulnerable customers, this seems the ideal time to understand more about this syndrome.  Indeed, the FCA Guidance even touches on dementia referencing ‘cognitive disabilities’ within how they define the drivers of vulnerability so it should already be a consideration.

With a client-base that is over-55, this is an issue that Key Group is passionate about and we are proud to say that all customer-facing colleagues who work for Key are trained as Dementia Friends.  This has now been rolled out to all colleagues across Key Group and we’ve had a fantastic response from the most junior members of the team to the board.  The training, which is not arduous and freely available, helps to raise awareness of the disease and provide people with ideas on how to be more supportive of those who may be struggling. 

Simple things like being more patient if an older person is taking longer at a cash point or having trouble finding the right phrase during an advice session can make all the difference.  As can realising that the reason that their family seems over protective is because they are perhaps processing what dementia will mean to them.

At the moment, there is no cure for dementia but if we all take the time to better understand the disease and its impact, we can help to ensure that those who are suffering do not feel ashamed, isolated or excluded.

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