Mark Poarch is the Chief Executive of BRACE. To visit their website, or to make a donation, go to https://www.alzheimers-brace.org.
When BRACE decided on its slogan – ‘Together We Will Defeat Dementia’ – we knew that every word of it mattered.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by dementia. Globally, it numbers more people than there are in Spain, and numbers are forecast to treble by 2050, putting them somewhere between Japan and Russia on current population figures. In the UK, depending how you define city boundaries, it is our third largest city at 850,000.
BRACE is quite a small charity, with income typically around £800,000 a year. It would be easy to think that we can’t have much impact at that size, yet we do. For example, we facilitated the clinical trial of one of the only four treatments currently available for people with Alzheimer’s. We also started the research in 2004 that led to a current drug trial that could turn an existing hypertension treatment into one that helps Alzheimer’s patients by slowing the advance of the disease. Other examples of our work include supporting the SW Dementia Brain Bank, a crucial resource for much of the laboratory research that is happening, or helping to create the Bristol Brain Centre, an NHS clinic which is also a major clinical research centre.
But this isn’t about blowing our own trumpet. The key word in our slogan is ‘together’. There are a few large charities and, of course, public bodies involved in tackling dementia, plus a larger number of smaller organisations. This is true, not just of the UK, but of many countries around the world. Most are concerned with care, some with campaigning, and relatively few with medical research.
The important thing is that we work together and value one another’s contribution. I was therefore delighted to be asked by Unforgettable to provide a blog for their excellent website. It is an opportunity to connect with more people and build the alliance against dementia that little bit more.
Although we fund medical research, an increasingly important part of our work is providing opportunities for people to meet and inspire one another. Our annual conference is packed with people confronting dementia in different ways; scientists, doctors, carers, care managers, campaigners, solicitors, designers and – last but hardly least – people who are themselves living with the condition. Bringing them together creates such energy and exciting potential.
If you are someone who wants to support a dementia charity, you have many to choose from. If your focus is helping those who are living with dementia right now, there could be a small independent charity near you, or a local activity of the Alzheimer’s Society.
If your focus is research, trying to make sure life is better for the next generation and that dementia doesn’t become three Spains by 2050, the range of options is smaller. I hope you will have a look at our website to see if you like what we are doing. There are other charities funding research, however, and you need to make sure that the one you support is a good fit for your own priorities.
None of us can fight this battle alone, and it is hugely encouraging that there are so many people working so hard to support those living with dementia and looking for the answers that will spare others from dementia in future. Together, and only together, will we defeat dementia.