This is a time of renewed investment in research and development in dementia. SMS has great optimism that this research drive will be reflected in advancements in diagnostics and therapeutics in the years to come. Further breakthroughs are just around the corner.
In diagnosis we expect advancements in both imaging and blood test markers allowing better diagnostic accuracy. This will provide the basis for identifying patients earlier in the disease including at the asymptomatic (without symptom) stage. The earlier stages of these conditions may provide the greatest window for treatment response.
We also expect that, similar to other areas of medicine such as cardiovascular disease, there will be improved tools to predict future dementia risk. Risk stratification will enable targeted preventative strategies based on lifestyle measures (exercise, social interactions and diet) and vascular health strategies (blood pressure control, cholesterol and diabetic management) that can be provided in middle life to reduce future dementia risk in the future.
For patients with established dementia, improvement in treatments that both slow disease progression and ameliorate symptoms is required, ultimately with the aim to preserve patients’ independence at home and delay nursing home admission.
At the same time there needs to be a move away from collective “one fit” approach to dementia management, towards a more individualised patient-centred approach. This individualised approach should use cognitively trained multi-disciplinary teams to focus on individual specific care needs – physical, cognitive, behavioural, psychological, social and functional.
A major revamp to social provisions for people living with dementia is required, including improved government funding and dynamic policy. We support residential home enterprises such as the dementia specific villages that seek to both provide supported safe environments while maintaining a degree of independence, environmental familiarity, stimulation and social connection.
Finally, there is an urgent need for age appropriate community and residential care and support options tailored for people living with younger onset dementia, noting the specific and differing care needs of younger people compared to the older population.