Do Alzheimer Charities Do More Harm than Good?

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

I know the people who originally set them up meant well.

But I strongly suspect that the big Alzheimer charities are now doing more harm than good.

This is not a problem which is exclusive to the Alzheimer charities.

Many big charities often lose their way.

Hundreds of charities which have a medical theme do `deals’ with big drug companies and so sell themselves for `a mess of potage’. When a charity is linked to a drug company its policies and strategies will be slowly, gently moulded to fit the requirements of the drug company.

And, of course, as they get bigger there is a risk that charities will become `corporate’. They end up with huge administrative staffs. They pay their executives huge six figure salaries – with massive expense accounts and pensions.

I know of well-known charities which spend less than a quarter of their income on the cause for which they are supposed to exist. Most of their income goes on salaries and administration.

But there is a special problem with the Alzheimer charities.

They have become so big and successful that the words `dementia’ and `Alzheimer’s’ have become almost synonymous.

And that is a big, big problem.

Because there are many other causes of dementia.

And some of them are curable.

For patients with dementia the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has become the default diagnosis. And so patients with dementia are virtually abandoned to their fate.

This would not matter so much if it were only patients and relatives who thought like this. But doctors now think like this too. If they see a patient with dementia they assume that the patient has Alzheimer’s. Journalists frequently make the same mistake too.

And, as a result, there are thousands and thousands of patients with dementia who are curable but who do not receive the treatment they need.

So, for example, many patients with dementia who have normal pressure hydrocephalus could be permanently cured with a simple operation – if only the diagnosis had been made.

And that is why I think the big Alzheimer charities now do more harm than good.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2018