The Alzheimer’s Society has launched a guide to help farmers and rural residents support relatives, friends and neighbours with dementia.
Published to coincide with Dementia Action Week which ends on Sunday 27 May, it urges individuals, community groups and organisations to do more for those affected.
Living in the countryside and having dementia (caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s) can put people in a position of “double jeopardy”, according to the report.
They can be left feeling “excluded and disempowered”, unable to access support, guidance and services such as transport, shops, healthcare and banks.
There is more society needs to do to ensure everyone, in every corner of the country is supported Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society chief executive
“There is more society needs to do to ensure everyone, in every corner of the country is supported,” said Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes.
“Two thirds of people with dementia are based in rural areas.”
The condition can have particular implications in the agricultural sector because farmers often continue working long after the state retirement age.
There are also additional safety hazards, such as machinery, silage pits or livestock, and the often-solitary nature of the job can lead to delays in calling for help – or it arriving – following an accident.
“The cost in time and money of attending appointments can be particularly prohibitive for farmers, who are self-employed and may not have someone to manage the farm or have to pay for additional staff, added Mr Hughes.
- Begins with mild symptoms that get worse
- A person experiencing it might have problems with day-to-day memory, difficulties making decisions, language issues, problems with perception of where objects are, lose track of the day or date, or show changes in their mood
- 225,000 people will develop it this year
- One in six people over the age of 80 have it
Charles Smith, chief executive of the Farming Community Network which was involved in the development of this guide, said the charity is seeing more cases of dementia.
“It’s not exclusively a disease of old age, but it’s often associated with it – and as the farming population gets older, so we are likely to see more.
“Farmers frequently stay working and involved with the business later in life so, if they’re affected with dementia, routine tasks can get forgotten or done too many times.
“In extreme cases, they can be at risk using machinery or even get lost.”
Research has also shown you are far more likely to develop dementia if you are lonely, so encouraging social interaction is really important, added Mr Smith.
Good to talk
“It’s important to talk about this as a family so you can develop coping strategies. It’s a physical health issue – there’s absolutely no shame attached to it.”
The guide also highlights the importance of members of farming families having discussions about lasting powers of attorney and succession planning.
Village schools, youth groups, Guides and Scouts all have a role to play giving support, as do Young Farmers – and the report praises the work of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs’ Rural+ campaign which was developed by – and run in association with – FCN.
Launched in 2014, this aimed to raise awareness of rural isolation, dementia and mental health.
“Young farmers play an integral role within rural communities as they communicate and work with the older generation who are less likely to talk about any issues they may be facing,” Mr Hughes said.
“This raises awareness, reduces the stigma of dementia, and builds stronger and healthier rural communities.”