A CHARITY is launching a campaign to raise awareness of how long it takes people living with dementia to be officially diagnosed.

Dementia charity The Alzheimer’s Society is launching a new campaign “It’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill” to bring attention to the high number of people who live with dementia for years before receiving an official diagnosis, and to encourage those worried about their own or their loved ones’ memory to seek support in getting a diagnosis.

As part of this campaign, the charity has worked alongside leading clinicians to develop a “symptoms checklist” which highlights changes that might be due to dementia; the charity hopes that this will make the diagnosis process easier.

Alongside the checklist, The Alzheimer’s Society has also released a short film also entitled “It’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill”; the film showcases how the symptoms of dementia, such as asking the same question repeatedly, can be dismissed as a sign of old age.

Marketing director Sally Murdoch, who lives in Kingsclere, was affected by this when her father, William Coventry, was diagnosed with dementia.

A retired fencer from St Mary Bourne, William’s behaviour started getting more erratic, but despite doing memory tests, his did not receive a dementia diagnosis until he had been displaying symptoms for almost three years.

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Sally said: “Unfortunately, it took my dad to get sectioned to be diagnosed with dementia. He was initially admitted to hospital after he became so confused and angry that he became delirious.

“He was discharged into respite care, but he became so aggressive and delusional that he was sectioned.

“He stayed in hospital for about six weeks and underwent a lot of tests including a brain scan which finally showed he had dementia.

“It is awful that he had to reach such a crisis point to get his diagnosis but at least we finally understood what was going on. He is so much better than he was as a result of his diagnosis.”

Ahead of this new campaign, The Alzheimer’s Society conducted a survey of over 1,000 people with people with diagnosed dementia, as well as carers and people without an official diagnosis.

The survey found that 29 percent of participants in the South East lived with the condition for more than two years before getting an official diagnosis; the figures also showed a further 31 percent had waited between 1 and 2 years.

One of the main reasons for delay, according to 32 percent of respondents in the South East and compared with 42 percent nationally, was that they assumed the symptoms were just part of getting old, leading to a delay in accessing treatment, care and support.

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Linda Goddard, Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager, said: “Asking the same question over and over again is not called getting old, it’s called getting ill.

“If you’re worried for yourself or someone you love, take the first step this Dementia Action Week – come to Alzheimer’s Society for support.

“Yes, getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but it is worth it.

“More than nine in 10 people with dementia told us they benefited from getting a diagnosis – it gave them crucial access to treatment, care and support, and precious time to plan for the future.”

According to the charity, there are over 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia, including 22,380 in Hampshire.

The Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia charity; it provides support and information to people diagnosed with dementia and their families.

The charity also funds research into dementia, and campaigns to improve care and create lasting change for people affected by dementia is England, Wales and Northern Ireland; more information about The Alzheimer’s Society can be found at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/, and the charity can be called on 0333 150 3456.

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