There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and the numbers are on the rise. Our research shows by 2021 there will be more than 1 million people living with the condition. Yet despite dementia affecting so many people, there is still a reluctance to talk about it.
This Dementia Awareness Week, taking place 19 - 25 May, Alzheimer's Society is asking everyone to join the conversation on dementia, no matter how little experience they have of the condition.
The theme for this year's Dementia Awareness Week is Worrying changes nothing. Talking changes everything. Talking about dementia is not just about preparing us all for a condition that is on the rise and currently incurable. It is about banishing the stigma surrounding dementia, one of the reasons only 46 per cent of people with dementia have a diagnosis.
Nurses, GPs and all primary health care professionals have an important role to play in recognising the signs and symptoms of dementia in people and helping increase the shockingly low diagnosis rates. Someone may be in hospital or visiting a nurse about other health matters, but could be showing signs of developing dementia; it is important these are recognised. Symptoms include memory loss, mood changes, confusion and problems with speech and understanding.
People can live well with dementia for many years. A timely diagnosis can open the door to treatments and support and give people time to plan for the future. Ignoring dementia will not make it go away; recognising it early will have many benefits. Failing to treat dementia can lead to poor quality of life as well as the financial cost of people reaching crisis point and needing emergency hospital care.
Only through talking about dementia can we dispel the stigma, improve awareness and understanding of the condition and ultimately improve diagnosis rates. There's no better reason to start talking than Dementia Awareness Week. But we must start as we mean to go on. To join the conversation, follow #Dementia on Twitter this week.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive, Alzheimer's Society