THE number of people living in this area who are suffering from dementia now tops 13,000 – with experts saying many of those do not realise they have it.
A recent study into the condition here in East Sussex found that as many as 65 per cent of those thousands of people currently coping with dementia are doing so without any formal diagnoses.
And that number is expected to rise to more than 16,000 in the next 10 years.
In the survey, carried out by the Department of Health, it was also discovered that just a third of local people aged over 40 can differentiate between the symptoms of dementia and common signs of ageing – meaning potentially thousands of people are going without NHS support.
The research has prompted the Coalition Government to act – with care services minister Paul Burtsow launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the early signs of dementia.
And a spokesman for the drive says that learning to spot the signs is more important during the festive season than ever.
They said, “With Christmas fast approaching, many of us are beginning to plan for the time of year when families are likely to spend more time together and see loved ones that we may not have seen for a while.
“It is often during this time when differences in behaviour and memory are noticed and when a crisis point can surface.
In fact, the Alzheimer’s Society received some 1,870 calls in January this year - almost double the number received in December 2010.
“Unfortunately, recognising that someone close to us may have dementia often comes too late, resulting in a crisis point and delayed diagnosis.
“Early diagnosis can, however, lead to better quality of life and prolonged independence.”
One of the main blocks to getting an appropriate diagnosis is that memory problems are often put down to a natural part of getting older.
The scheme now being pushed across East Sussex will cost £2million and will encourage anyone who thinks they or a loved on might be suffering from dementia to contact their GP.