AN AWARD-WINNING volunteer from the North East is backing a new national campaign to encourage people to seek expert help for early warning signs of dementia.
Barbara Dow was recently presented with a top accolade by the Alzheimer’s Society in recognition of her five years of inspirational voluntary work following the death of her husband Al, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Mrs Dow – who lives in Amble, Northumberland – travelled to the House of Lords to be presented with the William Brooks Award by Sir Michael Parkinson, a leading supporter of the society.
The awards are handed out each year to society volunteers who have given exceptional service.
Now Mrs Dow has given her strong support to the new Department of Health campaign, which encourages people with worries about their memory to seek medical attention.
Targeted leaflet drops are being carried out in Northumberland this week in support of national TV, radio and Press campaigns to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of dementia.
Mrs Dow started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society because she had been unhappy with the care that her husband received in hospital and in a care home during the last months of his life.
After making a formal complaint about his care she was asked to write about their experiences following his diagnosis. The resulting booklet – called Al’s Story – forms the basis of talks which she gives to health professionals.
She has spoken at conferences, to doctors and consultants and to nurses in their final year of training.
Yesterday she said she hopes people will take notice of the national campaign and act urgently if they spot the signs of dementia highlighted in leaflets.
“Life doesn’t stop just because you’ve been diagnosed, but early diagnosis helps to ensure those affected by dementia can access the support they need, and, in some cases, the drugs that might slow down the progression of the disease.”
Mrs Dow believes heightened awareness of dementia will help raise diagnosis rates in the North East.
“The way The Journal has shone a spotlight on dementia recently can do nothing but good, because there is still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and that needs to be tackled. People need to take action if they are concerned about memory issues.
“It is not the odd bit of forgetfulness that is a tell-tale sign, it is the forgetfulness that creeps up on you on a daily basis.”
A Department of Health team has worked with the Primary Care Trust to identify areas with a lower than average rate of dementia diagnosis, and a boost to awareness levels is being trialled. Alzheimer's Society Newcastle-based area manager, Caroline Burden, insists help will be on hand for anyone who has dementia diagnosed.
“The leaflets will focus on getting help at the right time.
“So from our perspective it is important that people do seek a diagnosis as early as possible.”