The Alzheimer’s Society is calling for a national dementia awareness campaign after research revealed widespread fear and stigma about the illness.
The findings were published with a report, Dementia: Out of the Shadows, which examined the impact of the illness on the lives of 60 people and their carers.
Half of all the 4,000 adults surveyed believed there is a stigma attached to dementia, and nearly a third said it is the disease they fear most in later life – second only to cancer.
Health professionals lack of knowledge
The study said that despite the fact that 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, there is a worrying lack of knowledge among the public and also health professionals.
The charities found an “unacceptable” variation in the quality of assessment and diagnosis of dementia in different parts of the country, and provided examples of unhelpful and dismissive attitudes of GPs and health specialists.
Awareness campaign on dementia needed
Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Neil Hunt, said a national awareness campaign was vital to improve understanding of dementia among the public and GPs.
“The Alzheimer’s Society will lead the fight against stigma and we want to see it reduced by half in five years,” he said.
“There must be investment in national awareness campaigns. Government, charities, services and employers need to work together to make this a reality.”
Other recommendations, include better specialist diagnostic assessment services and improved access to information about dementia. The government’s national dementia strategy for England is expected next month.
The research was carried out in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation.
• Dementia: Out of the Shadows report