Michael Parkinson is among the celebrities backing the campaign
A new campaign, launched by the Department of Health to coincide with World Alzheimer’s day, aims to increase awareness of dementia and the importance of early diagnosis.
The campaign is being backed by celebrity supporters with personal experience of this debilitating illness which will affect one in five of us at some time in our lives. Former England footballer Gordon Banks and Sir Michael Parkinson have relived their heartbreaking personal experiences with dementia to help eliminate the stigma associated with the condition. Together with broadcaster Fiona Phillips, both of whose parents suffered from the illness, they are also encouraging people who think they have any symptoms to seek medical advice.
The trio have joined the Government campaign, which is part of David Cameron's pledge to help change people's understanding of dementia, and which ministers hope will help improve diagnosis rates.
Mr Cameron said: "Dementia is a devastating disease that puts enormous strain on people and their families.
"Shockingly, nearly 400,000 people are unaware that they have the condition and so we want to make sure more people know what dementia is and how to spot those tell-tale signs.
"With the number of sufferers set to rise in the years ahead, I am determined that we go much further and faster on dementia.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: "Our goal is to make this country a world leader in tackling the challenge of dementia. That requires us all to play our part, including being brave enough to start conversations about dementia to get our loved ones the early help we know makes a difference.
"Awareness is just the first step towards tackling the stigma around this condition and we need to work together if we're going to help those living with dementia have a better quality of life."
Saga has been working with the Department of Health and the Prime Minister's Dementia Challenge Group to find ways of helping families to live well with dementia.
Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga comments, “It is clear that many people are worried about this condition but they shouldn’t think there is nothing they can do.
“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.
"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 and to seek diagnosis and treatments. As the largest provider of care in the UK we’re committed to providing help for families affected by dementia - from providing specialist care to people in their homes to helping people take a well deserved and much needed holiday courtesy of the Saga Respite for Carers Trust.”
Some of the initial signs of dementia, which results from changes in the brain, include problems with thinking or reasoning, personality and mood changes such as unexplained anxiety or expression and difficulty with everyday tasks. Short-term memory loss can be a problem too, but it is more serious than those temporary lapses that most of us experience; for example while someone with dementia may forget a neighbour’s name, they may not even realise that the person is a familiar neighbour.