Dementia fears mean most avoid seeking diagnosis
More than half of people in Northern Ireland are avoiding seeking a dementia diagnosis for up to a year or longer, a new study has revealed.
The research by the Alzheimer's Society has found that dementia is the most feared health condition in the UK.
The findings published to mark Dementia Awareness Week have led to the charity urging the public to confront dementia head-on, and know there is help and support out there.
Danny Brown from Antrim was diagnosed with vascular dementia in March 2014 and admits initially he found it daunting and had "black days", but his life has now been transformed.
The 73-year-old continues to live completely independently after getting support.
"After I was diagnosed I spent four lonely months on my own, as the psychologist had said there was no more he could do for me," he said.
Mr Brown said his life "turned around" after his son rang the Alzheimer's Society and a dementia support worker asked how she could help.
"I was given great support, and I joined a friendship group," he said. "I also spend a lot of my time at the log cabin in Antrim, where I do gardening. The group usually go once a fortnight but I go down every day because I live close by - I look forward to going to it every day. I had bad, black, dark days, but now I look forward to every day."
He added: "I won't lie, it is not easy to deal with being diagnosed with dementia, but I am determined to make the best of every day, and the support of Alzheimer's Society helps me do that."
Latest figures show that 225,000 people in the UK will develop dementia this year - that's one person every three minutes.
Evidence shows the earlier the diagnosis, the better your chance of living well for longer. It also means that thousands of people are not being enabled to plan for the future while they still have the capacity to make important decisions.
But the Alzheimer's Society is campaigning to show people that life doesn't end when dementia begins; support is out there and it is possible to live life well.
Bernadine McCrory, director of operations in Northern Ireland, said: "Too many people are in the dark about dementia - many feel that a dementia diagnosis means someone is immediately incapable of living a normal life, while myths and misunderstandings continue to contribute to the stigma and isolation that many people will feel.
"We know that dementia is the most feared health condition of our time and there's no question that it can have a profound and devastating impact on people, their family and friends - but getting a timely diagnosis will enable people who have dementia to live as well as possible."
- Call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or visit alzheimers.org.uk/DAW for more support.