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Two thirds of people living with dementia feel isolated after diagnosis

Article By: Ellie Spanswick, News Editor

Forty per cent of people are sceptical over how much someone living with dementia benefit from seeing loved ones they are no longer able to recognise.

In the report published by Alzheimer’s Society, 43 per cent of people were said to mistakenly believe that once a person with dementia can no longer recognise a loved one, they stop benefitting from visits from them.

The charity found in a separate study of 300 people affected by dementia, 64 per cent felt isolated from family and friends following being diagnosed.

Chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes, said: “After spending time with friends and family over the festive period, New Year can be a bleak and lonely time for people with dementia and their carers. It’s so important for people with dementia to feel connected throughout the year.

“Spending time with loved ones and taking part in meaningful activities can have a powerful and positive impact, even if they don’t remember the event itself. We’re urging people to get in touch with us and find out how we can help you stay connected.”

The charity reports that 850,000 people will be living with dementia this year, while one person will develop the condition every three minutes, with one in three babies born in 2015, being at risk of developing the condition it in future.

Alzheimer’s Society has issued calls for people to commit to spending more time with people living with dementia and help them take part in activities to keep them connected as part of their New Year’s Resolutions.

During the Winter in the weeks following Christmas, people living with dementia and their carers could be faced with long dark days until they have the chance to socialise and get out of the house. As their dementia progresses, it can be difficult to recognise members of their family and their friends, but they could still retain emotional memories of times they have spent together during visits, which can continue after the visit.

For someone living with dementia, spending time with a loved one is important as it can stimulate memories and feelings of happiness, comfort, security and familiarity. Remaining connected to loved ones and participating in day trips and activities can prevent a person with dementia from feeling so isolated.

The study further revealed that more than half (54 per cent) of people living with the condition were no longer or infrequently participating in social activities since diagnosis. While nearly half (48 per cent) felt they would feel more connected if they saw family and friends more often, and half of those surveyed would like someone to take part in activities and hobbies with them.

Furthermore, 41 per cent of the general public admitted that being unable to recognise their family and friends would lead to them feeling the most isolated, more than a divorce or relationship breakdown.

In contrast, more than two thirds of those surveyed said they would still visit someone with dementia if they no longer recognised them, just as much or more often than they do already. However, despite good intentions, the busy lives people lead and a lack of awareness of how important emotional memories are, means they don’t always follow up on their commitments leaving so many people feeling isolated and alone.

Christopher Devas has dementia and lives in Dorset with his wife, Veronica who provides care for him. She said: “When we have lunch with friends, Christopher might not say much and be a bit unresponsive but he will always be in really good spirits afterwards and say how much he’s enjoyed it. It’s really important to both of us that we stay in touch with our close friends and family.

“Alzheimer’s Society provides many services for people to get out into the community and keep involved, and they have been a huge support to us all.”

The charity offers information, advice and support to people affected by dementia, running 3,000 local services. These include: dementia cafés, befriending services and a 24 hour online ‘Talking Point’ forum.

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