People need to face their fears if they suspect that they, or someone they love, have dementia -Dan Parton (19/11/11) looks into the fears surrounding the condition.
Dementia may be the second most feared disease after cancer, butpeople need to face their fears if they suspect that they, orsomeone they love, have the condition as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, all too often people don't, and as a result don'tget the treatment that can slow the progress of the condition.
Indeed, 6 out of 10 people with dementia never receive a formaldiagnosis, according to governmentfigures. So the launch of a £2 million government campaign toraise awareness of the signs of dementia, with a focus on seekingan early diagnosis, is to be welcomed.
There are still many myths around dementia. For example, stilltoo often dementia is mistaken for just being a symptom of gettingolder. As a result, many people still ignore the symptoms - puttingthem down to things like 'senior moments' - until its too late andthey end up in a crisis situation and the dementia has becomeadvanced. What is lost can never be got back.
Yes, dementia is scary, as the recent international study by Harvard School of Public Health andAlzheimer Europe showed, but that is all the more reason totake action quickly.
As Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK,said: "Although people may be fearful of the worst, a diagnosis canempower them to access the right treatments and support to preserveindependence."
He's right; getting a diagnosis can give people a whole newlease of life. Knowing what is wrong - and getting the righttreatments - can have a hugely positive effect on the person withthe condition and their loved ones.
Indeed, in the past I've met people with dementia in supportgroups, such as the Scottish Dementia Working Group,who still lead full lives. Members of the group have developed newhobbies and interests post-diagnosis while getting to speak atinternational conferences and generally enjoy their lives.
For the group, dementia is part of them, but doesn't define them- or stop them doing whatever they want to. Getting an earlydiagnosis means that the person can access the drugs and treatmentsthey need to slow the progress of the condition and give them vitalextra years to spend with their family and friends.
Writing that sentence, it seems the obvious thing to do, butmany people obviously don't, whether it is through ignorance of thesymptoms, fear or a myriad of other potential reasons.
Whatever the reason, a campaign to increase awareness ofdementia and the importance of early diagnosis is needed but shouldbe the start of a sustained initiative.
Raising awareness is a long-term process, and campaigns need tobe sustained over several years to be truly effective.
Let's hope it is just the start.