Almost 1 in 5 people with dementia symptoms waiting six months before seeking help

'All I was waiting for was when was it going to kick in', Karen Kitch explains after receiving an early onset dementia diagnosis

Almost one in five people in Wales who notice symptoms of dementia are waiting more than six months before voicing their concerns, a leading charity has found.

Alzheimer's Society Cymru is urging those with suspected dementia to seek a timely diagnosis to avoid reaching crisis point.

Karen Kitch from Rhondda Cynon Taf said she had to give up her career, lost friends and found herself in a "very dark place" after being diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The mum-of-three, 60, from Llanharan, was diagnosed at the age of 51 and had to quit her job in a pharmacy.

Karen said the disease has had an impact on her whole family.

Karen first started showing signs of suspected early onset dementia in her thirties, when she began regularly dropping things.

"For those first initial months [after my diagnosis] I was in a very dark place," she explained.

"I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to go anywhere, I couldn't see that there was a life afterwards because all I was waiting for was when was it going to kick in.

"A lot of people, colleagues, certain friends, they don't bother with me anymore, they just disappeared.

"I think they were just looking at the fact I was going to be that dribbling person in the corner because that's that they visualise."

Karen finds pottery helps with her symptoms because it "slows down her brain".
  • Finding new purpose

Because Karen was diagnosed relatively early, she is able to manage her condition with medication and receives support from a personal assistant twice a week.

She now runs pottery classes for other families affected by the disease.

"I always say it's like a massage to the brain. When you're creating something with the clay you just disappear into it.

"I always thought going to all these classes and things I was like, 'that's not for me I'm not doing that at my age', and I didn't realise the value of things like that.

"Sometimes it's nice to speak to somebody who's going through the same as you, and you can say, 'ah yeah I did that the other day', and then you can see that it's not such a big issue."

Lowri Morgan is in charge of ensuring people like Karen get the right support in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area.
  • Early diagnosis essential

Lowri Morgan, Dementia Programme Manager for Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Partnership Board, said: "It is vitally important that people have an early diagnosis because it opens up the window of opportunity for different treatment options.

"There are different drugs that can be used if it's caught early enough, there are also other options around occupational therapy support, speech and language support and dietetic support that's available to people."

Alzheimer's Society Cymru said delaying seeking support could be having a devastating impact on how soon people are able to get help.

Area manager Jolian Ardolino said: "We can't continue to avoid the 'd' word - we need to face dementia head on.

"This Dementia Action Week we want everyone to know there is support out there if you're confused about symptoms, or don't know how to have that first tricky conversation."

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