Let's all talk about dementia

PUBLISHED: 16:36 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 23:21 15 June 2010

Merfyn Temple, from Honiton, was among some 150 people from all over Devon who attended a meeting at Exmouth Pavilion on Wednesday (April 1) to learn more about dementia, the 'no cure yet' brain illness.

Merfyn Temple, from Honiton, was among some 150 people from all over Devon who attended a meeting at Exmouth Pavilion on Wednesday (April 1) to learn more about dementia, the 'no cure yet' brain illness. Retired Methodist minister Merfyn, 90, lost his wife Audrey a year ago after slowly losing her to the disease."Personally, I found it hard to listen to the speakers, because I had been through a similar decline in a much-loved person's life," said Merfyn. "But one man on the stage, Professor George Giarchi (Head of School of Psychosocial Studies), spoke with care and understanding as he took us through the link with the patient and the carer."The professor said those who care for a person with dementia had a burden to carry 24 hours a day and they needed help from health authorities. Some in the audience seemed surprised when he said doctors "cannot diagnose in a few minutes in a surgery and they are not trained to spot the early warnings".He said, in 20 years' time, there will be one million people with dementia in the UK.There were more worrying facts and figures from Ms Jenny Richards from National Dementia Strategy. Of Devon's 750,000 population more than 20 per cent are aged over 65 and, in the next five years, people over 80 in the county will rise by eight per cent. A recent survey reported one in twenty over 65 in the UK were affected by dementia.Looking at Devon, Ms Richards said 12,000 people have dementia.Listing the way ahead, she put at the top of the strategy: raising awareness, early diagnosis and learning to live with dementia. She underlined that dementia isn't a stigma, must not be an illness people are afraid to talk about.The meeting had been organised by East Devon members of the Senior Council for Devon. Professor Giarchi took the listeners down a long, upsetting road of dementia starting with mild confusion, personality changes and increasing memory loss plus incontinence, sleeping problems and loss of identity, to the patient's constant misery. The carer finds themself at end of their tether."People ask why their doctor cannot help, but 70 per cent of GPs have no training" he said. "There's a challenge to find early detection. But, at the moment, carers must listen to those who live in this confused and untidy world. Don't focus on the disease, concentrate on the individual."After the meeting the Rev Temple had a long chat with Professor Giarchi. "A fine man who has been through what so many carers have been through with a nearest and dearest," said the professor.

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