Dementia denial: Two out of three older people are worried… but most don’t want to know more'We need to stop worrying and start understanding dementia,' says charity spokesmanCarers are 'amazing source of inspiration' says actress Carey Mulligan, whose grandmother has Alzheimer's

Jenny Hope


07:10 GMT, 21 May 2012



08:50 GMT, 21 May 2012

Two out of three older people are worried about dementia – but most don’t want to know any more about it, says a new survey.

It reveals that 66 per cent of people aged 55 and over have worries about brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s – and it is the age group with the biggest fears.

But almost as many young people aged 18-24 – 61 per cent – are worried.

Carey Mulligan is now an Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society - her grandmother was diagnosed with the condition eight years ago

Carey Mulligan is now an Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society – her grandmother was diagnosed with the condition eight years ago

More women than men are anxious about dementia, 70 per cent compared with 56 per cent of men.

However, fewer than one in six older people want to learn more about the disease, says a joint poll commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society and Saga Homecare published today.

Oscar-nominated actress, Carey Mulligan, has become an 'ambassador' for the Alzheimer's Society to promote better awareness and less fear of the condition.

Her grandmother was diagnosed with the disease eight years ago and the 26-year-old said while her 'Nans' no longer recognises her she still takes delight in music.

She added that although her grandmother's decline had been painful for the whole family, the support provided by her care home was 'inspirational' and showed people with dementia can be helped to live well.

Ms Mulligan, who starred in An Education, told the BBC the key was 'remembering that those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they're all individuals and they're all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.'

Around 800,000 Britons have a form of dementia, with symptoms affecting memory, thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, while other forms include vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. In just 15 years a million people will be living with the condition.

A YouGov survey – released to mark Dementia Awareness Week – found that overall 63 per cent of people say they are worried about dementia in some way.

Most are worried about either themselves or someone they know developing dementia in later life, with just one in four people saying they are unconcerned.

The survey of more than 4,000 British adults found one in five believe there is nothing you can do to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

And fewer than a fifth realise that it is a terminal illness. The Mail has consistently highlighted the issue in its Dignity for the Elderly campaign.

Two thirds of those aged over 55 worry about brain diseases

Two thirds of those aged over 55 worry about brain diseases

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society charity, said people must overcome their fears and learn that early diagnosis can be critical for slowing down symptoms.

He said ‘Dementia is the biggest challenge facing the UK today so it’s not surprising that people are so worried. There is currently no cure and people aren’t getting the care they deserve. However we know that with the right support people can live well with the condition for a number of years.

‘We need to stop worrying and start understanding dementia. Whether you have five minutes or half an hour please take some time to learn about dementia.

‘Only through knowing more will we ensure the people with the condition are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.’

Caroline Woodhead, 55, from North Yorkshire, has Alzheimer’s disease and is one of the three faces of Dementia Awareness Week.

She said ‘Before I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease I used to worry about it too. Now I have it. I’d rather I didn’t have it but I don’t dwell on it.

‘People don’t realise it’s possible to live well with dementia. I was diagnosed at the age of 52 and I still enjoy life – I can sing, drive, go for walks and use a computer.

‘I would encourage everyone to find out more about the condition. By understanding dementia better, we can break down these barriers and show that life does not end with a diagnosis.’

Dementia Awareness Week is being held in partnership with Saga Homecare. Saga Homecare, which is part of the larger Saga group, provides care at home for people who want to maintain their independence and stay in their own homes.

Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, said: ‘As the largest provider of care in the UK, Saga has extensive first-hand experience of providing ongoing support to people with dementia and their families.

‘In April, the Prime Minister committed to improving the lives of those suffering with dementia and their carers in his Dementia Challenge. We have been working with and advising the Government on this policy and the importance of preventative and early treatments.

‘It is clear that many people are worried about this condition but they shouldn’t think there is nothing they can do.

‘We want to help people understand dementia better so that they can get preparations in place for them and their family.

‘There are preventative steps we can all take such as leading a healthy lifestyle, eating the right foods and keeping our minds and bodies active but it is also vital to spot the early signs of dementia to seek diagnosis and treatments.

‘We’re committed to helping the lives of people living with dementia and their families – from providing specialist care to people in their homes to helping people take a well deserved and much needed holiday’ she added.