Dementia branded ‘dirty word’ as figures show thousands of people in Suffolk and Essex suffer in silence

PUBLISHED: 16:31 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:31 18 July 2017

A charity worker has said people with dementia may feel stigma and not seek help. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A charity worker has said people with dementia may feel stigma and not seek help. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

One third of people living with dementia in Suffolk and north-east Essex have not had a diagnosis, new NHS figures reveal.

In June this year, an estimated 14,045 people aged 65 and over in those areas were thought to have the condition, but just 8,591 patients were diagnosed.

Debbie Foster, operations manager for the Suffolk branch of charity Alzheimer’s Society, said: “These figures suggest that many people living with dementia are trying to deal with the issue on their own and that there is still stigma in the general public about admitting to having a form of dementia.

“Alzheimer’s Society implores people who think they are having memory problems or other concerning symptoms to speak with their GP and consider obtaining a dementia diagnosis. No one should ever face dementia alone and support is out there.

“A diagnosis provides a person with dementia with an explanation for their symptoms, removing uncertainty and allowing them to begin to adjust. It enables people affected by dementia to access information, advice and support.”

Debbie Davis, chief executive of charity Essex Dementia Care, said early diagnosis was important as it gave patients the chance to plan for the future.

She added: “Life doesn’t stop with dementia. We have one-to-one services available and we encourage people to still do things they enjoy.

“I think as the disease progresses people can go more into denial. The word dementia is like a dirty word and they don’t want it to be who they are, but then there are other people who are more accepting.

“Dementia is a bit like a finger print, no two finger prints are the same, and although dementia has signs and symptoms everyone is different.”

The statistics, released by NHS Digital, also show more than 4,100 unique dementia patients aged 65 and over in Suffolk and north-east Essex were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment during the last financial year.

Ms Foster said: “Emergency treatment in hospital for people with dementia can be a symptom of poor social care where preventable problems have escalated and resulted in a hospital admission. This can be seen through inadequate care homes, a lack of dementia training for social care workers and families struggling to meet the enormous financial weight of social care: issues we continue to campaign on.”

The figures are released as Public Health England reveals dementia is now the top killer of women and is responsible for more than 60% of male deaths in the country.

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