A report by a leading medical ethics group has criticised the NHS for providing insufficient support to patients in the early stages of dementia.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics blasted the "morally wrong" practice, saying there was "ample evidence" that in many cases people were diagnosed with the condition and "simply told to come back in a year's time".
Professor Tony Hope, chair of the Working Party that produced the report, said: "There will rarely be a straightforward answer to these problems, but we want carers to have better access to support and advice to help them work out what is best in their particular situation. Giving carers opportunities to talk to others in the same situation is also vital."
The Alzheimer Café scheme is a good example of this, where people with dementia, their carers, and professionals, are brought together, not just to socialise, but to tackle some of these difficult ethical issues. There are around 20 Alzheimer Cafés in the UK at the moment.
Dr Rhona Knight, a GP and one of the authors of the report, said: "People with dementia also need more respect. We heard one person describe having dementia as being 'like a non-person'. We have to challenge these kinds of attitudes. People with dementia are often capable of doing much more than we think, and even if they can't make big decisions, they may be able to make smaller ones, such as what to wear or eat."
"We also want doctors, nurses and professional carers to be equipped with information and training to help them deal with the ethical dilemmas they come across in their daily work. For example, A&E staff see people with dementia all the time, but may not know how best to handle difficult situations that can arise."