DEMENTIA has been at the forefront of an Evening Mail special series this week, looking at some of the big issues which affect an ageing local population and more and more families.

Focus On Dementia has shown the crisis of a lack of specialist beds making patients with advanced and sometimes violent stages of dementia travel hundreds of miles outside Cumbria, the problems carers face on daily basis and the work being done locally to build more understanding among communities.

The week of special reports has:

- Looked at five case studies of elderly people needing specialist dementia support being taken away from their homes in the south of Cumbria;

- Discovered just under a third of people (32.2 per cent) expected to have dementia in Cumbria were not diagnosed last year ;

- Gained an insight into the work being done by a team of dementia specialists at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to demystify challenging behaviour to reduce the number of people sent to mental health wards ;

- Highlighted ways communities are bidding to become officially recognised by the Alzheimer's Society as 'dementia friendly areas' by disseminating information.

Growing demand

Dementia is the number one condition people over the age of 55 fear in the UK and an ageing population will see two million people living with dementia by 2051.

The need to prepare for this huge increase in demand on the NHS, care services and specialist beds has been the subject of great debate and work in recent years.

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The sad case of Madge Bazley, of West Shore Park, Walney, being split from her husband of 63 years, Eric, due to the specialist dementia care he needs not being available in the area has demonstrated some of the agonising problems families face here.

The 82-year-old said: "Unfortunately what's doing me so much harm is not being able to see him.

"It makes me so angry that we haven't got the facilities for people here.

"The worst thing about this dementia is you lose the one you have been with years."

It is believed that around 15,000 people are living with dementia in Cumbria, many without a diagnosis.

Community effort

Walney Dementia Action Alliance. Funding of specialist units aside, communities across Cumbria are building better links and making dementia, a topic still with a considerable amount of stigma attached to it, less scary for people who suspected they or a loved one is developing memory problems.

Ulverston is a great example of a community rallying together to build awareness.

Training workshops have been held locally to give retailers, traders and businesses tips on how to make their workplaces more dementia friendly, by showing staff how to recognise, approach and communicate with a person they suspect may have a memory problem.

There is plenty of evidence to show that people with dementia struggle with daily tasks and feel isolated as a result.

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Research has found one in four people with dementia have given up shopping since being diagnosed due to losing their confidence in public and feeling socially awkward.

Many cite difficulties with shopping including finding their way around stores, picking up the wrong items, problems at the checkout and worries about staff and other shoppers’ reactions.

The training in Ulverston has combated this so far, with shop staff shown how patience with a person struggling to count money and how assisting a person who has forgot how to get home is crucial.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "Sadly, people tell us they often stop going shopping as their dementia progresses because they are worried about getting the support they need. In turn, this can lead to people with dementia feeling socially isolated.

"Everyone has the right to be able to shop comfortably and we all have a role in helping people with dementia feel like a part of their community."