Dementia: Taking the difficult first steps for loved ones in decline
RODNEY Fogg's life was thrown into disarray in 2005 when his wife suddenly began to lose weight with a mystery illness.
Five years later, 66-year-old Pamela was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease following a period of steady mental and physical decline.
Mr Fogg says the changes in a loved one with dementia can become evident quite quickly.
"She always had a brilliant memory," he said.
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"She could remember everything: birthdays, anniversaries and everything.
"But suddenly, she started misplacing her handbag or losing the car keys."
Watch Sir Michael Parkinson and Fiona Phillips talk about dementia in this video to mark World Alzheimer's Day
Despite some obvious changes, it is difficult to recognise and diagnose dementia. Mr Fogg said: "At first, you think it is just old age. But as things get more serious, you start to wonder. I started questioning whether Pamela had dementia myself because I had worked among people with the condition."
The 67-year-old, of Radcliffe-on-Trent, worked in psychiatric centres for 30 years.
"Because of my job, it wasn't as alien to me when it happened to Pamela," he said. "I think it must be even more difficult for people experiencing dementia for the first time.
"I was aware of what we might go through and I knew that we had to simply cope with it."
A recent study by market research company Ipsos Mori suggested that half the people in the East Midlands would not be comfortable talking to a friend or family member about dementia.
And two-thirds of people in the region would not be comfortable differentiating between the signs of dementia and normal ageing, the survey found.
A campaign called A Day To Remember aims to increase early diagnosis rates for dementia in the East Midlands by tackling the public's fears of talking about the condition. It has been launched by the Department of Health with support from the Alzheimer's Society.
The campaign is part of the Prime Minister's Challenge On Dementia and is encouraging people to have that first "difficult conversation" with a friend or family member when they spot the signs and symptoms of dementia, as well as ensuring they visit their GP.
Broxtowe MP and public health minister Anna Soubry said that dementia was one of the nation's biggest challenges.
She added: "While there remains no cure, early diagnosis can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future.
"This campaign sends a clear and important message to people in the East Midlands – if you spot signs or symptoms in your loved ones, then have that difficult conversation because diagnosis makes a difference.
"With an ageing population, we know the estimated 670,000 people living with dementia in England today is set to grow, which is why we have made dementia a clear national priority."
The three-month national campaign, launched on World Alzheimer's Day in September, is raising awareness of the condition, what initial signs and symptoms look like and how to seek help. Advice on talking about the condition will also be available.
Alzheimer's Society East Midlands area manager Ian Howarth said talking to a family member or friend about dementia would probably be one of the most difficult conversations anyone could have.
"Early diagnosis is crucial in helping people with dementia to access the support and help they need to live well with the condition.
"If you think a loved one is showing the signs of dementia, it's so important to take that first step and talk to them about it. There are things you can do to help, treatments can work well for people, but early diagnosis also means you can plan and get help, instead of doing everything in a panic."