Early dementia symptoms 'ignored'

More than half of people affected by dementia have said they waited six months or more after first noticing symptoms of the condition before seeking professional help, according to a survey.

Author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's, supports the new Dementia Friends campaign (Dementia Friends/PA Wire)
Author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's, supports the new Dementia Friends campaign (Dementia Friends/PA Wire)

Research carried out with 1,043 people showed 41% said they had kept concerns about dementia "bottled up", mainly because they feared upsetting the person affected or they did not want to face the reality of the condition.

The study for the Alzheimer's Society, carried out on Facebook and online, showed 54% had waited for six months or more after first noticing symptoms of dementia in themselves or someone close to them before seeking professional help.

The charity said an estimated 52% of the 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK are yet to receive a diagnosis. The high numbers who are failing to talk about the condition has added to these difficulties, the charity said.

A separate online survey of 2,358 British adults found dementia is the condition people are most reluctant to seek help for, compared to other health issues including serious heart and digestive problems.

The YouGov poll also found 57% of adults who have had a health problem in the past year have put off seeking help about it, nearly half of them because they thought they would be "making a fuss".

One in five, or 23%, of those who had put off seeking help said it was because they feared it was a serious health problem, such as dementia.

The findings have been released in Dementia Awareness Week.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer's Society chief executive, said: " One in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia, so it is worrying that so many people would feel reluctant to seek help about it. The Dementia Friends programme has put dementia back in the spotlight but the fact remains that thousands of people remain in denial about the condition.

'Talking about dementia can be difficult and we all bury our heads in the sand from time to time, but the sooner you know what you are dealing with, the sooner you can feel in control again and get on with your life."

The survey findings come after musicians Chris Martin, Lily Allen and Alesha Dixon joined stars from the worlds of sport, comedy and television to highlight the plight of dementia sufferers in a new advert aimed at encouraging people to become "dementia friends".

Other celebrities involved in the ad include comedian Simon Pegg, actor Ray Winstone, footballer Leighton Baines and presenter Paul O'Grady.

Author Sir Terry Pratchett - who suffers from Alzheimer's disease himself - is also involved.