Over half of people with concerns about dementia symptoms in themselves or a family member have put off visiting a doctor or seeking professional help for six months.

Dementia

The results of two surveys published to mark Dementia Awareness Week have revealed dementia is the health topic people are most reluctant to open up and talk about.

The Alzheimer’s Society used research from polls of over 3,000 people as part of its Dementia Awareness Week campaign and is encouraging people to ‘open up’ about the illness which currently affects over 800,000 people in the UK.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive said: “One in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia, so it is worrying that so many people would feel reluctant to seek help about it. The Dementia Friends programme has put dementia back in the spotlight but the fact remains that thousands of people remain in denial about the condition.

“Talking about dementia can be difficult and we all bury our heads in the sand from time to time, but the sooner you know what you are dealing with, the sooner you can feel in control again and get on with your life. That’s why this Dementia Awareness Week, Alzheimer’s Society is urging anyone who is concerned about dementia to stop bottling it up and get in touch. It is possible to live well with dementia and there are lots of ways we can help.”

Among the reason people gave for putting off seeking help, not wanting to make a fuss was the most common answer given. Other reason included feeling embarrassed and fearing a serious diagnosis such as dementia.

One dementia carer described the struggles she went through when changes in her husband Bill’s behaviour showed symptoms of his dementia.

Viv said: “My husband, Bill first started experiencing symptoms of dementia three years ago but to begin with, we were both in total denial. It was hard for Bill losing his memory and he found the changes in his behaviour particularly difficult to accept. I had noticed Bill was becoming more forgetful but I kept telling my children it was just because he was getting older.

“Dementia scares people and it can be so tempting to bury your head in the sand, but seeking help is the best thing we could have done. Through Alzheimer’s Society, we now attend a support group which has allowed Bill and I to stay active and make new friends. You really do need that support in place–I can honestly say I don’t know how we would have coped without it. I still love my husband for who he is and that will never change.”

An informative video has been created by the Alzheimer’s Society to help people understand about the small changes which can be made to improve life for people with dementia, and face to face sessions are being held throughout the country this week to encourage people to open up about dementia.

The campaign Dementia Friends has also been given a boost by new advertising campaign featuring celebrities such as Lilly Allen, Sir Terry Pratchett and Chris Martin to encourage more members of the public to become a dementia friend and help people speak about the concerns related to the illness.

Maizie Mears Owen, Care UK’s head of dementia services, has welcomed Dementia Awareness Week. She said: “Our teams make the most of the week to highlight the issues surrounding dementia. We also use it to offer advice to people who have recently been diagnosed with dementia and to loved ones supporting people living with the condition. It is a great opportunity, combined with the many activities our teams create, to be a friendly face at what can be a difficult time.

“At the recent Alzheimer’s Show we held workshops on creating dementia-friendly environments and the simple changes people can make to accommodate the changing sensory perceptions and communication skills people with dementia encounter.

“We also used the week to promote our latest free book Listen, talk, connect – a guide to understanding and overcoming the communication hurdles commonly associated with this emotionally-challenging illness. The guide to activities that increase wellbeing and can be fun for all the family was created by our 110 homes’ activities coordinators and is now used by families, homes and support groups nationwide.”

Independent care provider Red & Yellow Care has also embraced this year’s theme for Dementia Awareness Week as part of its ongoing campaign to demonstrate that a good life with dementia is possible.

Red & Yellow Care’s report entitled ‘A Good Life with Dementia’, published in association with Alzheimer’s Society, aims to ‘open up’ the debate and seed it with a more hopeful perspective.

Dr Bahbak Miremadi, founding director of Red & Yellow Care said: “Respecting someone’s unique identity and investing in good overall health are notions we all take for granted, but shockingly don’t apply with equal rigour to those with dementia. We need to get back to core principles if we’re going to enable people with dementia to see past their fear, and make the most of what is potentially a long, rich and rewarding time of life.”