Dementia: If I couldn’t laugh I’d cry!

This morning I was enthused listening to David Baddiel on GMB; someone with a level of ‘lived experience’ willing and able to highlight the issues involved with dementia, from a personal and family perspective.

Although there is a great deal of information available on the topic of dementia, both from a medical perspective and from organisations supporting individuals and their families (www.alzheimer’s Society), a fresh perspective has to be good for helping to educate opinion and debunk assumptions. Writing in the Sunday Times last week, Baddiel said;

‘One of the issues about dementia is that we have a mono view based, essentially, on the people who have turned their faces to the wall — the ancient man or woman staring comatose into space while care home workers change their blankets. But actually dementia, much like cancer, takes many forms — Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Pick’s, often in combination — and one of those creates a state of being wildly different, almost opposite, from that image. (David Baddiel)

It was clear from listening to Baddiel that he had thought long and hard about this project, prior to going ahead with it. That alone is evidenced by a quick check of Google. I have to admit that, despite possessing a reasonable understanding of dementia (my father had it and my mother-in-law has it currently), I’d never heard of Pick’s Disease before… had you? Probably not so that alone has to be a good thing.

Pick’s disease: a type of frontotemporal dementia, is a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive destruction of nerve cells in the brain. Common symptoms that are noticed early on in the diagnosis are personality and emotional changes, as well as, deterioration of language. (

Like many factors impacting on individuals and our wider society, greater understanding comes from talking about these things. Irrespective of how much we like to ignore problems, brushing them under our ‘uncomfortable’ carpet won’t actually make them disappear.

Talking to The Radio Times recently David Baddiel said;

Maybe it’s not OK to put my dementia-suffering father on camera – but the alternative is that nobody ever talks about this, and we must. It’s an epidemic – the largest killer of older people, bigger than cancer. We must bring that into the light. (David Baddiel)

Baddiel is not only worried about his Father, he also has concerns that he may be starting to show symptoms of Pick’s disease himself (see here). At what many would see today as just over half way through their life (51yrs), those thoughts alone will undoubtedly present distinct and real worries for him… especially whilst viewing and experiencing the impact dementia has had on his family so far.

But how common is dementia? According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are around 800,000 people in the UK with dementia. One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and two-thirds of people with dementia are women. The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer. It is estimated that by 2021, the number of people with dementia in the UK will have increased to around 1 million.

Talking aids our increased understanding, it also provides people with the skills they will need to better deal with future issues. And sadly, one that so many more of us will have to face in the future… this subject is no different.

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