The Western Trust Area has the second highest level of dementia diagnosis in the UK - shocking new research from the Alzheimer’s Society has revealed this week.
Only the Belfast Health Trust Area exceeds the number of diagnoses of dementia in all 169 health trusts surveyed by the charity. And local Support Worker Michael McIvor said the shocking new statistics only tell part of the story.
“For every person who is diagnosed it is highly possible there are more sitting at home, who have not looked for help and who are managing on their own.
“The research is shocking but for us working in this sector it is not surprising. We have seen a significant increase in the number of people coming forward for help and support.
“This is not something which is going to go away.”
The revelations come as the Alzheimer’s Society begins a year long partnership with supermarket giant Tesco, who have selected the society as their charity of the year.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership in Derry on Tuesday, Maria McCloskey whose father was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago said that anything that will raise awareness of the disease and reduce the stigma associated with it has to be a good thing.
“People just don’t now how to react. They don’t know how to talk to someone with dementia.
“There are people who would have crossed the road to avoid my father and even my mother because they feel that he is already gone and wouldn’t know them anyway.
“A diagnosis of dementia is isolating enough - for the person who has been diagnosed and the family who surround them - without people cutting themselves off from us.
“The person is still there. They are still human.”
Jacqueline Cartin’s mother was diagnosed with dementia just eight months ago. The diagnosis she said “came out of the blue” and was a huge shock for her mother and the wider family.
The local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society has helped her to come to terms with the diagnosis and face the future much better prepared. “When there is a diagnosis in your family, your whole life changes.
“You have to think about the future - about how you will care for your loved one, what support they will need.
“The Alzheimer’s Society has been invaluable in helping us find our feet when we were still very much in shock. The support they have offered to my mother and to us has been priceless.”
Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood, attending the launch of the partnership, said: “No one should have to face dementia alone. Unless we raise awareness of the condition now, in ten years time there will be 10,000 people living in Northern Ireland without a diagnosis and they will not have access to the care and support they need.”
The partnership with Tesco will endeavour to raise vital funds for the Alzheimer’s Society throughout the UK through staff fundraising. It is hoped that £500,00 will be raised in total.