The best thing a person who fears they have dementia can do is to go to their GP for help, according to Michael McIvor, a former volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society in Foyle.
Speaking following Pat Hume’s revelations on the Miriam O’Callaghan show at the weekend, Michael said that while a diagnosis of dementia can be scary - getting diagnosed as early as possible allows you access to key medications which could give you extra time with your loved ones.
“I think the key issue is that when people experience memory loss, they know something is wrong. They get scared - and they close the door on it and like to pretend it’s not happening.
“But if you can get diagnosed and treated earlier, then you can access medications which can stave off the illnesses progression for a time.”
While there is no cure for dementia, there is help available. During his time with the Alzheimer’s Society, Michael worked on educating those working in the emergency services on how to recognise and support someone with dementia.
This, he said, was invaluable. “People need a little knowledge. Not a lot, but enough to know how to speak to someone with dementia - how to recognise the illness so that they aren’t simply writing someone off as being under the influence of drink or drugs.”
He pointed to the Alzheimer’s Society website www.alzheimers.org or to www.dementia.stir.ac.uk for more information.
“There is help out there,” he said, “and people shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Dementia is something we still don’t really talk about despite the increasing numbers of people with the illness.”
Alzheimer’s Society Foyle, which offers dementia friendly training and runs Dementia Cafes for support can be contacted on 71348887.