Alzheimer’s Disease

by Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

There are estimated to be 45 million people around the world suffering from dementia. (Alzheimer’s disease is just one of the causes of dementia. There are others.) In Britain there are at present around a million people suffering from dementia. And the number is going up annually. Dementia is a global epidemic.

Many patients with this awful disease have developed a tendency to wander. Relatives sometimes write and ask if I think it would be a good idea to have them fitted with an electronic tag so that they can be found quickly if they wander away from home. They worry, however, that it might be demeaning to do this. However, safety is paramount and I think patients with dementia should be tagged – for everyone’s benefit.

Indeed, I cannot see why all patients with dementia are not routinely offered an electronic tagging service. It would be a better answer than the solution favoured in some British hospitals where patients with Alzheimer’s are now handcuffed to their beds so that they do not require care and attention from the nurses.

The incidence of dementia is about to rise exponentially now that doctors are being paid £200 every time they diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve told everyone I know to be on their toes when visiting their doctor. Too much hesitation and not enough blind certainty could well lead to an inconvenient diagnosis and a place of your own on the (very short) Involuntary Euthanasia Waiting List.

Medical journalists in the UK claim that this is the first time doctors have been paid to make a specific diagnosis but, as usual, they’re wrong. British doctors have for years been given cash bonuses for diagnosing a wide range of disorders – including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and that artificial diagnostic confection known as ‘COPD’.

It is, therefore, no surprise to discover that (officially at least) all these diseases are becoming commoner by the week.

Moreover, patients (and relatives) must take care to ensure that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is not made when the real diagnosis should be the eminently treatable condition of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus is dramatically underdiagnosed and is, I suspect, far commoner than most doctors believe. Doctors do NOT receive a fee for diagnosing Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.

I will be writing more about this soon.

Copyright Vernon Coleman September 2016