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When senior moments get more serious

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Anne Diamond | 12:34 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

Author Terry Pratchett, visiting the neuro-imaging laboratory at UCLA for "Living with Alzheimers"
I reckon nearly every family in Britain has been touched by dementia - in that, in nearly every family, there's a much loved relative, often a Mum or Dad, who's showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer's.

It's a concern that's been so eloquently highlighted by author Terry Pratchett, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's - a prognosis that will one day engulf him. Did you see his recent TV series "Living With Alzheimers". Brilliant!

It reminds me of the 80s when I started campaigning about cot death. I took a documentary crew to New Zealand, which had the highest cot death rate in the world. They said there that every family had been touched by cot death. It was epidemic. That's how it's beginning to feel with dementia and Alzheimer's, isn't it? It has touched my family.

Today I met Jo, from Tilehurst in Reading, whose mother started to show signs of dementia at the disturbingly young age of about 67. The whole family didn't realise at first, she said, because they made allowances for her slips of memory.

"We used to finish her sentences for her," said Jo. "You just never think it's dementia, we all have senior moments don't we?"

Jo had young babies of her own. She wondered why her Mum never rang to show a bit of maternal support - why Jo always had to ring her. Now they know - her Mum had forgotten her phone number.

Then her Mum went out for a walk one weekend, and never came back. They had to call the police. Mum was found walking, confused and alone, and had forgotten her way home. That's when the whole family had to take action? But what?

Jo has decided against a residential care home, and is instead caring for her Mum at home. But it isn't easy - on anyone, least of all on Jo. You have to know how to organise your family life, how to deal with power of attorney issues, how to investigate the benefits system, how to look back with no regrets.

Jo was a project manager, and I think that sort of training is invaluable. Perhaps we should all learn those skills. I wish I had them!

On a lighter note - producer John won the office sweepstake for the World Cup. In a random draw weeks ago, he got Spain - and gradually the smile on his face has assumed Cheshire Cat proportions. Me, I drew Ghana. Can't even remember how they did. My bets on Andy Murray winning Wimbledon didn't pan out well for me, either. Never take a sporting tip from me... I'm a jinx.

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