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Dementia ‘creeps up unannounced’, says former newsreader John Suchet

The illness can take “more of a toll on the carer than the person with dementia”, John Suchet told The Big Issue for Dementia Action Week

This Dementia Action Week, around 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, and with an ageing population somebody is diagnosed every three minutes. But it doesn’t just affect the person with the condition, it can take a toll on those caring for a loved one.

Now well over a year into the pandemic, people with dementia and their families are still getting to grips with how lockdown impacted their wellbeing.

Author, presenter and former newsreader John Suchet told The Big Issue about suspecting his wife, Bonnie, had dementia years before her diagnosis.

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Dementia is the bastard of diseases. It creeps up unannounced. No tell-tale lump, no hacking cough, no unexplained pain. You’ve forgotten why you came into a room, forgotten where you put the car keys, forgotten a name. Who hasn’t done that? If they think you’ve got cancer they do tests – X-ray, MRI scan, biopsy. If they think you’ve got dementia, do know how they test you? Who’s the Prime Minister? What city are we in? What kind of building is this?

Not exactly scientific, is it? I suspected my wife Bonnie had dementia long before we were given the diagnosis. There were lots of little signs over several years. Not understanding a simple question, forgetting something that had happened the day before. And then the big one. We were at the departure gate at Stansted waiting to board a flight to France. Bonnie went off to the toilet. I told her not to be too long, boarding would begin very soon. Fifteen minutes later, with the last passengers boarding, I heard my name paged. Would I please come to the information desk. There was my darling Bonnie, not in any distress, smiling with relief that she had found me.

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Dementia is a long road. Nine years in Bonnie’s case from diagnosis to the end. In fact I know it was several years longer. Dementia prides itself on the one quality it has that no other disease can boast. It can take more of a toll on the carer than the person with dementia. It is the carer who watches their loved one slowly depart. There is no cure yet, no effective treatment.

If you are a carer, seek help. You’ll need someone to talk to. Anyone. And keep the person you love in your mind as they were, before dementia came for them.

For more information this Dementia Action Week visit the Alzheimer’s Society website: alzheimers.org.uk/get-support. You can also access these Alzheimer’s Society documents: Carers: Looking after yourself factsheet, Communicating factsheet and the Carers Guide on their website.

To sign the petition to #CureTheCareSystem and support Dementia Action Week (17-23 May 2021) visit alzheimers.org.uk/DAW. And for information, advice and support call Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line (0333 150 345) or visit our website.

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