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Dementia not taken seriously enough according to poll

Published 7 July 2011

remember the person leaflet front cover

Dementia is the most joked about medical condition according to an Alzheimer's Society commissioned poll.

Almost a quarter (24%) of people say they hear jokes about dementia the most compared to other conditions including autism (3%) and cancer (3%). This is despite the fact only 8% per cent of people believe it is acceptable to make fun of dementia.

The YouGov survey - released to mark Dementia Awareness Week™ - found that more than half of people (55%) believe dementia is not taken seriously enough in society highlighting that even though awareness of the condition has improved there still remains much stigma.

The poll also found that one in ten people think it is acceptable to say someone with dementia has 'lost their marbles'; for 'senile' it was 22 per cent and a third (33%) said it is acceptable to say someone with the condition is 'having a senior moment'.

Alzheimer's Society Ambassador, Duncan Preston, well known for his roles in comedy classics such as Acorn Antiques and Dinnerladies, said:

'I have worked in comedy for many years and love a good joke. I know laughter is the best medicine but it is not on to make fun of dementia. A million people will develop this devastating condition in the next ten years so it is likely to touch all our lives at some point. This Dementia Awareness Week, join me in laughing with people with dementia not at them.'

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society, said:

'These are shocking findings and show that dementia is still a condition for which some people think it is ok to joke about. It is not. Dementia is a devastating condition which can happen to anyone. We must tackle this lack of understanding if we are to ensure people with dementia are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.'

 Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, said:

'Fear of dementia can trap people leaving them isolated and unsupported. That is why we have to challenge the stigma. We must look beyond the diagnosis to see the person.  People can live well with dementia and continue to lead and active and full life for years after a diagnosis.'

Heather Roberts, 56, from Derby has Alzheimer's disease. She is married with two children and grandchildren, and was diagnosed about five years ago. Heather said:

'It makes me angry to hear that people find dementia funny however I think people react this way because they're frightened of it. I've experienced people walking away from me when I've told them I've got dementia and that felt like a kick in the gut. I've told people I've got the disease and never heard from them again. We need to be open and honest and educate people that younger people like me get it, too, and that life does not end with the diagnosis.'

This Dementia Awareness Week™ Alzheimer's Society is encouraging people to 'remember the person' by looking beyond someone's diagnosis and engaging with them. The charity has produced ten top tips on how the public can support a family living with dementia - advice includes popping round for a cup of tea for a chat or helping out around the house to allow the carer to have a break.

Independent supplement

'A special dementia supplement features in the Independent newspaper today to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week. Featuring an article written by Alzheimer's Society Chief Executive, Jeremy Hughes, and an interview with Louise Lakey, Policy Manager, the supplement covers issues such as choosing a care home and coping with caring.'