“All Russia is our orchard. The earth is so wide, so beautiful, so full of wonderful places. [Pause]. Just think, Anya. Your grandfather, your great-grandfather and all your ancestors owned serfs, they owned human souls. Don’t you see that from every cherry-tree in the orchard, from every leaf and every trunk, men and women are gazing at you? if we’re to start living in the present isn’t it abundantly clear that we’ve first got to redeem our past and make a clean break with it? And we can only redeem it by suffering and getting down to real work for a change.”
Anton Chekhov, “The Cherry Orchard”
The #G7dementia leaders imposed some degree of finality by promising a dementia treatment or cure by 2025. But they are not real leaders in this context as there is no guarantee that they will physically there, in which case it will be impossible to attribute blame or success to them. And those did appear rather oblivious to much of the world around them. ‘Living well with dementia’ is exactly the sort of arena which will not benefit from a hierarchy of power, mandating people how to live well; a request not to think of elephants will quite often elicit the opposite result. For a start, most people do not wish to be micromanaged. It is clear nonetheless that members of the public will wish any correct diagnosis of dementia not to be unduly delayed, and to be given appropriate guidance about their condition. Such advice might vary from how to cope with depth perception difficulties, to how to deal with being unfairly dismissed in an employment context. These are valid considerations, and in a way analogous to ironing out inefficiencies; but that is where the comparison with a business ends. It is impossible to measure success in a dementia policy in terms of productivity.
Leaders in healthcare, including the dementias, will increasingly have to discuss matters with leaders in other disciplines. Whilst the followers might be diverse, it is clear that leaders will have diverse aims. Such aims might include promoting world-class research in publications and conferences, or might include world-class innovations for knowledge management in the service. Or leadership might involve, as a clinical leader on the ward, explaining to colleagues why there might more to a plan than medication. It is likely that more momentum for living well with dementia will come from people living with dementia, and caregivers, rather than Pharma or even large charities which focus on cure, care and prevention. Much of it does involve breaking down silos, but the converse of this is to build strong networks with a shared mission. The idea that a person with dementia can be at ease with himself or herself and his environment is a very powerful one, and not easily achieved by consideration of manipulations of single receptors in the central nervous system. The case for improving the quality of life of people should be coherently communicated, and not get sidetracked by what costs more; it turns out that technology is more of a burden on the NHS budget than the ageing population in any case. The trick is of course not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in any change of approach, and, as a leader, to keep composed even if the world dynamics in dementia policy appear very turbulent.