The widespread lack of awareness in society around the impact of dementia has been laid bare through new research.
One in two people did not know memory loss is an effect of dementia – and nearly a quarter said they had no idea what impact the neurodegenerative condition has on people.
Despite almost one million people in the UK living with dementia currently, and it being the UK’s leading cause of death, the YouGov survey of 2,162 people reveals how misunderstood it remains.
Only 12 per cent of those surveyed said they knew dementia leads to the loss of independence, and 11 per cent realised it can affect personal relationships.
Just five per cent said they appreciated it stopped people being able to communicate, and four per cent knew it causes loss of body and motor control.
Two per cent recognised the difficulties people living with dementia can have in managing finances.
While progress is being made in dementia research – particularly in recent months with new Alzheimer’s drugs, lecanemab and donanemab, showing success in trials – Alzheimer’s Research UK points to the need to transform the public’s understanding of dementia as being vital in speeding up progress.
The figures were commissioned to support Alzheimer’s Research UK’s new campaign film, Change The Ending.
Voiced by Oscar-winning actor Olivia Colman, it puts a spotlight on the urgent need to find a cure for dementia.
The animation follows the story of a prince and princess, whose fairytale life together is ripped apart after he develops dementia.
The prince experiences many effects of dementia, including forgetfulness, no longer being able to do everyday tasks, becoming fearful and paranoid, losing the ability to walk and needing care.
Colman’s mother was a nurse for 45 years, and as a young girl, she frequently met people her mother cared for, including those who were living with dementia, an experience that stuck with her.
“It was so upsetting to see how the condition had robbed people of their independence, and the impact it had on their loved ones,” she recalls.
“The work Alzheimer’s Research UK does is so important, and I was proud to lend my voice to this campaign – it lays bare the realities of dementia in such a powerful and thought-provoking way.
“I was holding back tears narrating the film as dementia destroys people’s ‘happily ever afters’, and we must do everything we can to end the pain and distress it causes.”
Also supporting the campaign are Frank and Alison Littleford.
Frank was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020.
The charity released a companion film along with Change The Ending, that shows the impact dementia has on their lives, what the couple have done to remain connected, as well as their hope in dementia research, which Frank is involved in.
“As my Alzheimer’s has progressed, I’m slowly losing myself”, Frank said.
“The things I need to live a life, like the ability to speak, to converse, to appreciate others, are gradually disappearing.
“What is most upsetting is I can see how it affects my wife, Alison, more than anyone else and I find it so difficult to not be able to have the same relationship with her as I did before.
“It’s only now that I can understand how other people with dementia must feel and I want to do all I can to stop this condition affecting others, like it has affected us.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK’s chief executive, Hilary Evans, said the film features a story the charity urgently needs to tell. “
This is the distressing reality for many people living with dementia today. Tragically, it will be the reality for many more if we don’t act now,” she said.
“As our survey shows, too many people are unaware of how dementia destroys lives, and this is blocking our path to a cure. We know the film will be hard to watch, but by putting a spotlight on the devastation this condition causes, we hope to ignite support for the vital research that will change the ending for everyone affected by dementia.”
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