Campaign for early dementia diagnoses

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HUNDREDS of people in 1066 Country with suspected dementia are not being diagnosed early enough, according to a charity.

Alzheimer’s Society has launched a new initiative to improve dementia diagnosis rates in East Sussex and over the next three months, the awareness campaign will target towns and villages across the county looking to promote the benefits of an early diagnosis and provide information about what help is available.

At present, only 42 per cent of people with dementia in Hastings and Rother have a formal diagnosis, lower than other parts of the county. In 2011 there were an estimated 3,429 people with dementia in the area with only 1,436 receiving a diagnosis.

Esther Watts, Alzheimer’s Society’s information worker for East Sussex, said: “People experiencing problems with their memory may not know where to turn for help. An early diagnosis is the key to getting the advice that people with dementia need. If memory problems are affecting your everyday life, it’s important that you go to the GP so they can refer you to the Memory Assessment Service.

“My job is to raise awareness about the support available to people affected by dementia in East Sussex. Over the coming months, I will be contacting over 55s groups, local MPs, councillors and the general public to raise awareness of dementia and tell them about the services we offer. I will be also distributing posters and leaflets to GP surgeries, dentists, pharmacies, libraries, post offices, Citizens Advice Bureaux and council offices so people know who to contact for help.”

The awareness initiative is part of the new East Sussex Memory Assessment Service (MAS), which was launched in October. The service has been developed to act as a single point for routine referral for all people with suspected dementia. Those who go on to receive a diagnosis of the condition can then be referred on to an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Adviser to offer additional support.

Sara Knight, the charity’s support services manager for East Sussex, said: “It is a shocking that under half of people with dementia ever receive a diagnosis. This awareness initiative will play a crucial role in the campaign to improve diagnosis rates in East Sussex. Early diagnosis is important as it helps those affected to maintain independence and regain control of their lives, as well as giving access to support and potential treatments. Understanding that there is a medical reason for symptoms also gives people a chance to plan for the future.”

Anyone who is worried about their memory, or that of someone they know, should book an appointment with their GP. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/memoryworry.