There are currently over 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK – a figure which is predicted to hit one million within the next five years.
However, recent research shows that access to support for the growing numbers of newly diagnosed is not keeping pace:
• 61% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and other forms of the condition say they feel depressed or anxious largely because of a lack of support.
• Only 58% say they are living well post-diagnosis.
• Dementia is the illness most feared by people over the age of 55, who are understandably concerned about losing their memory and identity.
As the UK’s leading charity for older people Age UK regularly hears of people who have been told they have dementia and then find they have nowhere to turn to for support or help in understanding how it will affect their lives day to day.
In fact, last year the Charity received more than a thousand calls for advice about living with dementia.
Age UK believes support is critical after diagnosis to help people come to terms with the life-changing news and to understand that it is possible to live well with dementia.
It has published two new guides to enable people diagnosed with dementia and their friends and families, secure their rights and entitlements, make informed choices about public services and play a full role in their communities and society.
Living with early-stage dementia: aimed at people who have been newly diagnosed with dementia and focuses on how they can live well with their condition.
Caring for someone with dementia: takes carers through the dementia journey and looks at the everyday things they can do, as well as the practical and emotional help they can get.
A number of local Age UKs around the country run services to help people with dementia and their families to live well for as long as possible. Age UK has just announced funding for pilot projects in Norfolk, East Cheshire, South Staffordshire and Exeter. These include schemes providing dementia advisers in hospitals who will work with GPs and post-diagnosis peer support groups.
Despite the fact that this is a frightening and confusing time there are ways of living contentedly with the disease. Being the carer of a person with the illness is just as difficult if not more so than being the patient. Help is available but you must ask for it, and not feel embarrassed in accepting assistance from healthcare workers or friends and family.
Planning for the future is an important part of living with dementia and will make life easier for all concerned if you do not feel you are living on the precipice of unknown perils.
Knowing there is help out there and that you are not alone can be comforting. And medical science is making huge strides in finding ways to slow down the process. A positive attitude is vitally important.
Age UK is unique as it offers a range of information and support services on all aspects of getting older – from money and benefits, to housing and health. Ranging from information guides and factsheets and a telephone advice line to our network of local Age UKs they are able to support older people or those who care and support for them.
The free, national advice line number is open 365 days a year from 8am – 7pm on 0800 169 6565. People can also visit www.ageuk.org.uk