THE national charity Age Scotland has called for increased care and support for people living with dementia, for whom Scotland’s new National Care Service will be “crucial”.

This follows this week’s release of figures from the National Records of Scotland showing 6046 deaths throughout the country in 2021 were caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While this is a decrease of 5% since 2020, it is nevertheless twice as high as in 2020, making dementia one of the leading causes of death in Scotland, with a mortality rate similar to coronary heart disease.

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In response to these figures, Age Scotland’s head of dementia Kainde Manji said: “We welcome the fall in deaths from dementia as positive news following the pandemic.

“However, these figures reinforce the fact Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are one of the highest causes of death in Scotland, particularly for women: in 2021, two thirds of those who died due to dementia were female (67%). Deprivation is also a factor, with deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias 1.3 times as likely to occur in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared to the least deprived areas.

"These figures emphasise the need for early diagnosis, preventative social care and community-based support. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that people who are immersed in their communities live longer and have better outcomes than those who don’t have access to this kind of support.

"The new National Care Service will be crucial in ensuring that people living with dementia can be diagnosed early, receive appropriate post-diagnostic support and access appropriate preventative social care, including through community-based activities and services that can help them live well with dementia.”

Following the latest data’s release, the Scottish Liberal Democrats reiterated their call that charges relating to care services delivered at home be scrapped, with Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton commenting: "Dementia has heart-breaking consequences for those diagnosed and their families. A co-ordinated package of support is critical to ensure people with dementia can understand and adjust to their diagnosis.”

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Responding to Age Scotland’s call, Scotland’s minister for mental wellbeing and social care Kevin Stewart told The National: “We want everyone who is entitled to post-diagnostic support to be offered a referral. That’s why we are allocating an additional, ring-fenced sum of £3.5 million this year following the same investment last year, and so that we can meet the service shortfall and address variation across health boards.

“We continue to support NHS Boards and local partners to improve dementia care and are working to implement the commitments in the Dementia Covid-19 Recovery Plan.”

In addition to the £3.5m highlighted by Stewart, a further £1m has been invested by the Scottish Government in Age Scotland to fund post-diagnostic support. Age Scotland are currently accepting applications for their grants programme “Encouraging and Supporting Grassroots Activity”, which is designed to fund projects that offer community-based support for people living with dementia and their families.