A third of people who notice signs of dementia in themselves or a loved one keep their fears to themselves for longer than a month.
Just 15 per cent speak to someone else about the issue straight away, despite the benefits of early diagnosis for managing the condition, which leaves them facing fears for the future alone.
Alzheimer’s Society surveyed 1,137 adults up to the age of 85, who had diagnosed dementia, were carers for someone with a dementia, or were worried they or someone they loved may have the condition.
The top reason people stayed silent after noticing the first signs of dementia, or detecting them in a loved one, was that they confused the symptoms with simply getting older.
But 44 per cent of people surveyed said they were worried they or a loved one would be talked down to or treated like a child if they were diagnosed with dementia.
Kate Lee, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, has said we ‘need to face dementia head on’
Kate Lee, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘We can’t continue to avoid the ‘D-word’ – we need to face dementia head on.
‘This Dementia Action Week we want everyone to know there is support out there if you’re confused about symptoms, or don’t know how to have that first tricky conversation.’
The charity learned 11 per cent of people who had detected their first dementia symptom, or the first symptom of someone close to them, had still not discussed it with anyone else at the time of filling out the survey.
This delay in addressing the problem has a knock-on impact on how soon people can get help.
The survey found 23 per cent of people waited longer than six months after the first dementia symptom before speaking to a medical professional.
While 64 per cent of people who kept quiet about dementia symptoms did so because they confused them with normal ageing, a third said they did not want to worry a loved one.
Meanwhile, 16 per cent were concerned about how it would affect their relationships, according to the survey, conducted by the firm Yonder Data Solutions for Alzheimer’s Society to mark Dementia Action Week.
Alzheimer’s Society has launched a new campaign – with the title ‘it’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill’ – to encourage people worried about their memory, or the memory of someone close to them, to seek support in getting a diagnosis, including by using the charity’s online symptoms checklist.
The charity learned 11% of people who had detected their first dementia symptom had still not discussed it with anyone else at the time of filling out the survey [File image]
Dementia diagnosis rates hit a five-year low during the pandemic, and have stagnated ever since – leaving tens of thousands of people living with undiagnosed dementia.
In the UK, one person develops dementia every three minutes – meaning that by 2040, 1.6million people will be living with the condition.
Kate Lee (SUBS – she is a Mrs) said: ‘At Alzheimer’s Society we’re dedicated to providing help and hope to everyone affected by dementia – nine in ten people told us they benefited from getting a diagnosis, helping them access the treatments, support and advice a diagnosis unlocks.’
The promising potential Alzheimer’s drugs lecanemab and donanemab, which slow down memory loss and may in future be widely available to people in the UK, rather than just in clinical trials, are shown to work better in people who are diagnosed earlier.
Dr Amir Khan, television doctor on ITV’s Lorraine, said: ‘A third of us will go on to develop dementia in our lifetimes.
‘We need to change the idea that getting dementia is inevitable as we age – it’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill.
‘Reaching out to ask for help can feel a scary prospect but it’s better to know. ‘Patients I’ve seen getting a timely, accurate diagnosis have had the chance to benefit from treatments and support from organisations like Alzheimer’s Society they’d have otherwise missed out on.’