The Prison Project: Raising awareness of dementia in prisons


If nothing else, I’d like you to remember these three facts:
Men aged 50 and over have been the fastest growing prison population for over 10 years. Prisoners’ bodies age faster than the general population. So much so that by the time they reach 50 years old their biological age (how well the body functions) is 10 years advanced of their actual age. The prevalence of alcohol and substance misuse, smoking, blood-borne viruses and non-communicable diseases among prisoners can be up to 15 times higher than the general population. Dementia diagnosis among prisoners is very low, but keeping in mind the three points and taking into account the high prevalence of multiple diagnoses, it is quite plausible that the prevalence of dementia among prisoners is higher than the general population. How The Prison Project started Having been fortunate enough to receive funding from the Innovation Fund, Karen McCrudden (West London Operations Manager) and I began scoping what dementia support provision was available in prisons, with a view to capturing what the prevalence of dementia is among prisoners, the types of dementia more commonly seen and how Alzheimer’s Society could most effectively provide support to prisoners and their families. Initially we focussed on HMP Wandsworth and HMP Wormwood Scrubs simply because they were in our locality, but as the project developed we were able to make strong connections with HMP Pentonville as well. Two critical findings: The level of awareness of dementia among the prison officers and prisoners is very low and symptoms are not identified or misdiagnosed due to pre-existing conditions. A very rigid regime means that no allowances are made, and so healthcare appointments tend to last no more than 10 minutes, which is insufficient for an assessment.
Raising awareness of dementia in prisons

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