Dementia is a frightening word. It's an umbrella term that describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function that are all usually progressive and eventually severe, with symptoms including memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding.

It's a cruel condition, too, because it robs the sufferer and their carers of a happy retirement and contented older age. Symptoms can be frightening for those experiencing them, and it can be heart-breaking and emotionally exhausting to watch a person you love become more confused and disabled over time. Sadly, dementia is also terminal and one in three people over 65 will die with it. Yet it's not simply a condition confined to the over 65s. There are 17,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease affecting 62 per cent of those diagnosed. Vascular dementia, meanwhile, affects 17 per cent of those diagnosed and mixed dementia affects 10 per cent of those diagnosed. Whatever the type, though, the fact is that dementia is the greatest health challenge facing us today. There are 800,000 people living with the condition and it costs the UK economy £23 billion a year.

 

The future of dementia care

 

But we shouldn’t be discouraged by this. We have seen huge strides forward in dementia care and support in the past few years. From a recent commitment from the government for significant research findings by 2025; improvements in hospital care; local communities making their areas more dementia friendly — we have come a long way.

We have seen huge strides forward in dementia care and support in the past few years

But we still have further to go. Currently, less than half of people with dementia get a diagnosis, meaning many are struggling without support. This is often due to the fact that a stigma still surrounds dementia and many people are reticent about reaching out for support. And while there are places with good health and care support, there remain many others where people with dementia and their carers lack the help they need.

Knowing who to turn to for help can often be difficult. Many hesitate to ask for help, and when they do, their concerns are often dismissed. But brushing things under the carpet can only continue for so long.