Healthy living

Six out of ten cases of dementia undiagnosed

Six out of ten cases of dementia undiagnosed Two out of three people don't know the warning signs

Around six out of 10 people with dementia go undiagnosed, new figures reveal.

This means that nearly 400,000 people in England alone could have some form of dementia, but are not receiving the vital support they need from the NHS.

Two out of three adults aged over 40 don't understand the differences between normal signs of ageing and the symptoms of dementia, a government survey found. The same survey also found that nearly a third of adults thought there was no support available for people with the condition.

Only about a third of adults aged over 40 agreed that they understand the differences between normal signs of ageing and signs of dementia, and close to a third of adults aged over 40 thought there was no support available for people with dementia.

The figures have been released by the Department of Health to mark the launch of a national press and TV campaign to highlight the early warning signs of dementia.

"People are afraid of dementia and rather than face the possibility someone we love has the condition, we can wrongly put memory problems down to 'senior moments,'" said care services minister Paul Burstow.

"But if we are worried, the sooner we discuss it and help the person seek support the better. Don’t wait until a crisis. Being diagnosed with dementia won’t make the condition worse but leaving it untreated will.

"We can’t cure dementia, but we can help keep the person we love for longer."

Nationally, dementia costs the NHS around £8.2 billion a year, a figure that is expected to increase as the average life expectancy for men and women continues to rise.

However, the overall cost of dementia to society as a whole is somewhere in the region of £23 billion a year, according to Alzheimer's UK.

As families come together during the festive season, people notice that an ageing relative may have a memory problem. The government campaign is urging people to be aware of the early warning signs, and encourage them to visit their GP.

Dementia warning signs:

  • Struggling to remember recent events, although you can easily recall things that happened in the past?
  • Finding it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV?
  • Forgetting the names of friends or everyday objects
  • Cannot recall things you have heard, seen or read
  • Repeating yourself or losing the thread of what you are saying
  • Having problems thinking and reasoning
  • Feeling anxious, depressed or angry about your memory loss
  • Finding that other people start to comment on your memory loss
  • Feeling confused even when in a familiar environment

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "As the number of people with dementia increases, it is vital we all take time to understand and talk about the condition.

"People with dementia and their families often tell us they were fearful of seeking a diagnosis.

"However a diagnosis opened the door to support, treatment and information they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to and helped them plan for the future."

This article was published on Mon 7 November 2011

Image © Karen Roach -

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