Who should take responsibility for care?

A nw scheme to train a million people as ‘dementia friends’ has been announced by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as part of the next stage of his Prime Minister’s challenge on Dementia. The scheme will be run by the Alzheimer’s Society, who are inviting interested individuals to register their interest on the dementia friends website.

Dementia Friends Logo

www.dementiafriends.org.uk

Dementia friends will be trained to help people with dementia feel understood and included in their community. The aim of the scheme is to “make everyday life better for people with dementia by changing the way the nation thinks, talks and acts.” £2.4 million has been put forward from the Social Fund and the Department of Health to fund this initiative.

There is much to commend about this scheme. If successful, it could not only help to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living with dementia, but could also lead to positive steps in the direction of creating ‘dementia-friendly’ communities. Making local communities more dementia friendly could help people living with dementia to live more independently for longer. This scheme also helps to recognise the importance of people other than immediate family and friends in supporting and caring for a person living with dementia. All too often, caring for a person with dementia can be an isolating experience, where familial carers slowly lose their own support networks because others don’t understand the challenges that dementia presents.

It seems to me that there is also an important ideological shift associated with making caring for people living with dementia a priority for communities, rather than individuals and private families. In an ideal world, moving towards collective responsibility for care might help to off-set some of the individual costs of caring, provided the scheme offers real help and support to people living with dementia. On the other hand, we must also be alert to the possibilities that rather than increasing (state-funded) support for people living with dementia and those who care for them, initiatives that push the emphasis onto communities to support each other are also tied to the aim of reducing the financial responsibility of the state for these sorts of services.

All too often in the dementia care sector, there are excellent services for some, and limited or no services available to others depending on where they live. In my recent research into dementia carer’s experiences (see www.dementiaproject.net), many familial carers found it extremely difficult  to navigate the complex ‘maze’ of services and service providers. Let’s hope that this is a project that, if successful, will continue to be financially supported through public funds to ensure parity of access, rather than relying on charitable support that can be geographically variable.

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About Rosie Harding

Prof Rosie Harding is Professor of Law and Society at the University of Birmingham. Rosie studied for an LLB at the University of Edinburgh, an LLM at Keele University and a PhD at the University of Kent. She was PI on the AHRC-funded phase of the ReValuing Care Network. Her research explores the place of law in everyday life with a particular focus on the recognition and regulation of caring and intimate relationships. Her broader research interests are in family law, healthcare law, disability law and gender, sexuality and law. She is the author of Duties to Care: Dementia, Relationality and Law (2017, Cambridge University Press) and Regulating Sexuality (2011, Routledge winner of the 2011 Hart-SLSA Book Prize and Early Career Prizes), and editor of ReValuing Care in Theory, Law and Policy: Cycles and Connections (2017, Routledge, with Ruth Fletcher & Chris Beasley), Law and Sexuality (2016, Routledge Critical Concepts in Law), and Ageing and Sexualities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2016, Ashgate; 2016, Routledge, with Elizabeth Peel). Rosie is a 2016/17 British Academy Mid-Career Fellow, working on ‘Everyday Decisions: Interrogating the interface between mental capacity and legal capacity’.  She founded and co-ordinated CentreLGS PECANS (http://www.clgs-pecans.org.uk/), from 2004-2011. PECANS is an international and interdisciplinary network of early career scholars working in the law, gender and sexuality field. PECANS was funded by the AHRC CentreLGS from 2004-2009, and the ESRC from 2009-2011.

Telephone :-+44 (0) 121 414 4960

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