Video report by Granada Reports correspondent Anna Youssef
More than 700,000 people are looking after a relative with dementia. Many of those feel they have no where to turn when their loved one puts themselves or others at risk of harm. Dementia can affect a person’s ability to manage their reactions to difficult thoughts and feelings. This can lead to them experiencing such intense states of distress that they become verbally or physically aggressive.
Rod and Joan Sellers have been married for more than 50 years. Joan was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. Rod says as her symptoms gradually got worse he noticed her behaviour start to change and she became more agitated and aggressive. For a long time, protective of his wife, Rod told no one.
Rod said: "She got hold of me one time and got her fingernails and went down my face with them but it was just part of her illness. She didn't know what she was doing. When you came to toilet her sometimes - she would fight you. I would go to get hold of her and she would slam me against the wall but then she would calm down while I managed to clean her up and things would be alright again."
It was only after Joan attacked another resident while in respite care that others became aware of the situation. Soon after she was admitted to a mental health hospital and sectioned after being deemed a danger to herself and others. Rod says she deteriorated rapidly.
Rod did not think a mental health unit was the best place for his wife but felt he was left with no other options.
Rod said: "It was terrible because you have got patients in there with different mental health patients, not just people with dementia and they were all mixed together in the same room. For the first month she was walking around the wards. The second month she collapsed and she never walked again.
Joan now needs round the clock care and lives in a specialist dementia care home. Rod wishes they’d been offered more support earlier on.
The charity Dementia UK has experienced a surge in calls to its helpline from families who feel they are at risk of harm with no one to turn to.
The number of people with dementia is growing rapidly, with someone developing the condition every three minutes in the UK. However, there is still limited information and guidance available to those who care for someone with dementia.
The charity says carers and their loved ones are being failed because health and social care support services are already stretched to their limit.
Lynn and Bill Seery have been together for more than 60 years. The couple had three daughters. Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2011. Lynn became his carer and the target of his anger and frustration.
Lynn said: "He became very aggressive verbally and then towards the end he started throwing things and pushing me. He did push me over a couple of times and I was frightened he might push me down the stairs and that’s when things got really bad. He got his belt off his trousers and tried to hit me with it at one point."
Lynn added: "I don't think he had any idea what he was doing. I mean I used to say to him 'You’re hitting me' because he had never been like that before. He was dead against men hitting women. "
After his violent outbursts grew more frequent Bill was eventually hospitalised and sectioned. Lynn says getting specialist mental health care helped him stabilise.
Bill now lives in a nursing home. He can no longer walk or talk.
Many experts believe fewer families would reach crisis point if there was more ongoing support from the point of diagnosis.
Helen Green is an Admiral Nurse for Dementia UK. As dementia specialists, Admiral Nurses help families manage complex needs, considering the person living with dementia and the people around them. Admiral Nurses work in local community services, GP practices and NHS hospitals, care homes, and hospices. They also run the charity's Dementia Helpline and Clinic appointments.
Helen said: "For someone living with dementia I would always advocate the best place is their own home, that familiar environment, that routine and the sense of security. Often hospital settings are very very clinical and can feel overwhelming and that unfamiliar environment, that increased anxiety can actually exacerbate the behaviour that led to them being detained in the first place."
Lynn and Rod say dementia support groups like Dementia Buddy helped them through some of their darkest times
But with dementia rates hitting a three year high and health and social care services already stretched beyond limit- the numbers of families struggling to care for someone with dementia looks set to continue to soar.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We're working to identify and treat more people living with dementia and provide potential new treatments as they become available.
"NHSE is producing a toolkit for GPs which will help them identify people with dementia using patient records, and is carrying out a project to improve dementia diagnosis in care homes.
"Alongside this, we are doubling the funding for dementia research to £160 million a year by 2024/25. Our Major Conditions Strategy includes a focus on dementia and will consider prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and long-term care to support people to stay in good health for longer".
One in two of us will be affected by dementia – either through caring for a loved one with the condition, developing it ourselves, or both
There are an estimated 944,000 people with dementia in the UK today. By 2025, there will be around one million people living with the condition
Every three minutes, someone develops dementia in the UK
34 million people in the UK know someone affected by dementia. That’s 52 percent of the UK population
Dementia was the leading cause of death in England and Wales in 2022
One in 11 people over the age of 65 in the UK have dementia
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the leading cause of death in England and Wales in 2022, with 65,967 deaths registered (11.4% of the total), up from 61,250 (10.4%) in 2021
Dementia UK is the specialist dementia nursing charity that is there for the whole family. The charity’s dementia specialist Admiral Nurses, provide life-changing advice and support, to anyone affected by dementia, whenever it’s needed
If you need advice or support on living with dementia, contact Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email
You can also book a free video or phone appointment to get expert dementia support from an Admiral Nurse. Find out more at
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