East Anglia: Dementia ‘feared more than death’

DEMENTIA is a greater fear in East Anglia than cancer and death, according to new research.

Thirty-five per cent of people polled said that when it comes to their health dementia is the disease scaring them more than any other, a YouGov survey of 2,000 people revealed.

Meanwhile, 26 per cent of people fear cancer and 16 per cent fear death.

However, a Suffolk health professional says she is “hopeful’’ the disease will be cured in her lifetime.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is now appealing for the Government and the private sector to invest in further study into the disease.

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Ben Faithfull, a Sudbury resident whose father has dementia, says he also believes this would have a huge impact on treating the disease and research into Alzheimer’s is “desperately underfunded.”

He added: “It’s heartbreaking seeing someone you love gradually lose their abilities and independence. It’s made even worse knowing there’s very little that can be done to help.”

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Dementia is a prominent disease in Suffolk, with Ipswich Hospital confirming the growth of the county’s elderly population means one quarter of its beds are taken by patients over 65 and suffering from Alzheimer’s.

However, Nettie Burns, Suffolk Mental Health Partnership’s manager of community mental health services for people in later life, said research is ongoing and she does not believe a cure is out of reach.

Ms Burns said she currently has funding to have a staff research nurse for one year and has a psychology assistant – but more investment would help.

She said: “I am very hopeful a cure will be found in my lifetime.

“More research would help but this is a very complex issue. You have to look at this from a pharmaceutical and medical perspective, but the potential to find a cure is huge.

“Progress in genetic engineering could have an effect but, at the same time, so could lifestyle changes.

“Research must be carried out in many areas. Also, we have to make sure the people caring for those with dementia are supported too. It is not simple.”

Ms Burns believes dementia is still a taboo illness and is not surprised people are scared of having the disease.

However, she advised anyone who is worried that they have symptoms of Alzheimer’s to see a doctor as soon as possible.

“People don’t talk about losing their mind,” she said.

“It is a terrifying prospect. But the earlier we see people the more we can do. Once the damage is done it is harder for us to help.”

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