More than 40 per cent of people affected by dementia have kept concerns about the condition bottled up, according to a poll carried out by Alzheimer’s Society.
The poll – which was released to mark Dementia Awareness Week (18-24 May) - also found that over half of respondents (54 per cent) had waited for six months or more after first noticing symptoms of dementia in themselves or someone close to them before seeking professional help.
Of the 1,043 people surveyed, three quarters (73 per cent) felt that dementia is a difficult subject to talk about. The charity is today warning that this reluctance to open up about dementia is contributing to the fact that 52 per cent of the 800,000 people living with the condition in the UK are yet to receive a diagnosis, denying them access to treatment and support. Alzheimer's Society is urging anyone who is worried themselves or someone close to them may have dementia to reach out for support and advice.
These findings are supported by a separate YouGov survey of 2,300 members of the general public, commissioned by the charity. The poll found that dementia is the condition people would be the most reluctant to seek help about (19 per cent) compared to other health conditions including serious heart (10 per cent) and digestive problems (13 per cent). The YouGov poll also found that 57 per cent of adults who have had a health problem in the past year have put off seeking help about it.
The YouGov survey of 2,300 people also found:
The reason nearly half (47 per cent) of people gave for putting off seeking help was that they thought they would be making a fuss.
23 per cent of those who have put off seeking help said it was because they feared it was a serious health problem, such as dementia.
Almost a quarter (22 per cent) said they didn't seek help because they were too embarrassed.
Dementia Awareness Week comes just a fortnight after Public Health England and Alzheimer's Society launched a star studded advertising campaign featuring celebrities including Lilly Allen, Sir Terry Pratchett and Chris Martin which encouraged people to become Dementia Friends. The Alzheimer's Society initiative aims to make everyday life better for people with the condition. People can watch a new online video or attend a face to face session to understand a bit more about what it is like to have dementia and the small things we can all do to make a difference to people's lives.
Viv (63) from Stockport cares for her husband Bill (70) who has Alzheimer's disease, but found this difficult to face at first. 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.'
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.'
Dementia Awareness Week 2014 runs from 18-24 May. Find out more at alzheimers.org.uk/daw2014. If you have any concerns about dementia, you can call Alzheimer's Society's National Dementia Helpline for confidential advice, information and support on 0300 222 11 22. You can also email enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org