Belfast Telegraph

Alzheimer's Society plays crucial role helping sufferers' families

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

The Alzheimer's Society has been leading the fight against dementia locally for more than 27 years.

The UK-wide charity supports people living with dementia and their carers, through day and home care services, befriending schemes, telephone and online centres, research, and awareness.

In 1986, an office was set up in University Street, Belfast but now it has more than 12 across Northern Ireland. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease or any other type of dementia, a set of symptoms that include loss of memory, mood changes, and problems with communication and reasoning. There are many types of dementia, with the most common being Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. It is progressive, which means the symptoms a sufferer experiences get worse.

Families often talk of losing a relative twice. Once, slowly, as their loved one's condition deteriorates and again when they die.

Margaret Sterrett (66) from north Belfast and friends Tom Honey, Collette McGrory, and a few others were founding members of the Belfast branch. Her mother, Peggy had Alzheimer's disease and died in 1989, aged just 67. Following Peggy's death Margaret decided to use the time she would have spent caring for her mother to volunteer with the charity and each year raises around £2,000 for it.

Margaret said she has witnessed changes in how people respond to and understand to dementia.

"People didn't use to talk about Alzhemier's and dementia," she said. "Everything has changed now, people are more aware. A dementia diagnosis has a big impact on everyone in the family and it's still shocking that young people can be diagnosed.

"Families need a lot of support to understand how to respond to their relatives, what changes will occur and how to help them best.

"The Alzheimer's Society is always looking for people to raise money or for volunteers."

For more information, visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/northernireland/

FACTFILE

* In the UK there are 800,000 people with dementia. This number is set to rise to 1.7 million by 2050.

* One in three people over 65 will die with dementia.

* 80% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.

* There are over 17,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK.

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