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Ards dementia sufferer Jack Cash tells of struggle as his normal life is turned upside down

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Jack Cash is a keen table tennis player

Jack Cash is a keen table tennis player

Jack Cash is a keen table tennis player

A Co Down man living with dementia has told of his battle to stay in high spirits as his daily activities are placed on hold due to coronavirus.

Jack Cash (69) from Newtownards is one of thousands of people affected by the condition in Northern Ireland.

Like many others he has found his life turned upside down in recent weeks.

During the crisis people living with dementia face becoming cut off from family, friends and the vital support networks they rely on.

An avid table tennis player from the age of nine, Jack is unable to continue his hobby while in lockdown. He said the lack of physical activity has dampened his spirits.

"I have been struggling, I am used to walking 10 or 12 miles a day and taking part in various social sporting activities. I am not able to do this now and I'm finding that quite difficult," Jack said.

"I've gone from nearly 12,000 steps a day to maybe 1,000. I am finding I am sleeping more, and when I wake from a sleep I feel a bit down, that I've not done anything.

"I've been trying to keep busy in the garden, but there is only so much that I can do there."

He says interacting daily with his loved ones via social media is what has been keeping him going.

"We have started a family quiz via WhatsApp. Every night I look forward to it. Things like what's mum's favourite colour?

"It's a bit of fun and gets the kids and grandkids all talking and having a laugh together. It allows us all to connect, now we can't see each other, and takes our mind off things for that hour."

Coronavirus is making life much harder for the 22,000 families affected by dementia here.

People are staring into a period of weeks, possibly months, of being cut off from essential care, which can leave patients confused in the absence of routine.

This disruption causes symptoms to deteriorate through a lack of social contact.

There are also repercussions for carers who can be left feeling isolated and worn out without any hope of respite care.

Of the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, 95% are over the age of 65 and many live with other long-term health conditions, heightening their risk of Covid-19.

James Erskine from the Alzheimer's Society said the crisis is causing panic, stress and anxiety for patients and their carers.

"We are hearing too often concerning accounts of how people are trying to cope," he said.

The charity is advising anyone affected by dementia who is self-isolating at home to stay active with gentle exercises each day, preferably in a garden if available.

Carers are urged to encourage daily activities and make sure the person has enough to keep them occupied as restrictions on leaving the home continue in the fight against coronavirus.

"Keep in touch by phone, post, email or Skype," Mr Erskine added.

"People may be anxious about the situation. Tell the person that you're thinking of them and encourage others to do so as well."

Some 80% of calls to the charity's Dementia Connect support line in recent weeks have been connected to coronavirus concerns.

The Alzheimer's Society has launched an emergency appeal to raise vital support funds for people affected by dementia in the UK who may be isolated, alone and without basic support to help them eat, wash and take medication during the pandemic.

The charity estimates that its fundraising income will take a hit of around £20m this year.

Mr Erskine added: "We are ramping up telephone support through our Dementia Connect support line to ensure we can be there for even more people with dementia, but rely on donations to make this happen, which is why we have set up an emergency appeal."

Donations can be made online at alzheimers.org.uk/emergency, via the charity's facebook page or to donate £10 text UNITE to 70660. The Dementia Connect Support line is available by calling 0333 150 3456.

Belfast Telegraph