NI adults 'fearful' of developing dementia, survey suggests

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC News NI Health Correspondent

image captionThere are signs all over Danny Brown's house to remind him to complete household tasks

Six in 10 adults in Northern Ireland are more fearful of developing dementia than any other condition, a survey has suggested.

Figures released by Alzheimer's Society also reveal more than half of those surveyed said if they had dementia they would feel their life was over.

A total of 2,365 people took part in the national survey conducted by Ipsos.

The society is urging everyone to come together and unite against the condition.

'Find a cure'

Operations director for the Alzheimer's Society in Northern Ireland, Bernadine McCrory, says too many people are being denied the support they need.

"We're determined to bring everyone's attention to the massive injustice faced by people with dementia and their carers," she said.

"There are over 20,000 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. We urgently need people to unite with us to improve care, offer help and understanding to those affected and find a cure. Together, we can bring about change."

Research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. By 2021, it is thought that one million people will be living with the condition.

Danny Brown, who lives in Antrim, already knows what it is like.

media captionDanny Brown said dementia caused "life to fold in on me"

Now 74, he was diagnosed with vascular dementia in March 2014. He says that the initial diagnosis came with a great deal of shock.

"I was very down. Life was ebbing away and I had no control, life was folding in on me and there was a lot of darkness - 'I can't go on with this, I can't face it'.

He said he was asking himself questions like: "How soon am I going to go blind? Will I remember?"

He added: "I lost my wallet continually, I hide it that well I can't find it."

Danny's reaction is typical of those who are diagnosed.

However, getting in contact with the Alzheimer's Society helped him and his family access support.

He is now part of a team who volunteer with the Men's Friendship Group in the log cabin Antrim.

image captionDanny Brown is proof that people who have been diagnosed can continue with their lives

Danny says the society have advised on how he can continue to live safely in his own home.

There are printed signs all over his house. Such as "check and lock door", " oven off".

There is also a lock on his freezer because he kept forgetting to shut the door.

"I don't smoke so there was never any risk of setting the house on fire but I do silly things at times and now I have just accepted what I have got.

"I am a volunteer and go to people's houses to help them. I will walk in and say I'm Danny and I have vascular dementia. "

With support, Danny is proof that people who have been diagnosed can continue with their lives - perhaps limited and different - but life can continue.

The charity says nearly two thirds of people fear a diagnosis would mean their life was over.

But it says an early diagnosis can actually help people to live as well as possible.

And it wants everyone to confront head-on the challenges posed by dementia.

In a survey of over 2,000 adults, over half say they worry that if they developed dementia, no-one would want to spend time with them.

The charity says they hope the results of this new survey will focus attention on the condition and help people realise they can continue to live independently.

Dementia is set to be the 21st Century's biggest killer, according to Alzheimer's Society.

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