DEMENTIA patients across Wearside are suffering in silence, as new figures reveal more than half remain undiagnosed.
While more people than ever have been identified as having Alzheimer’s disease in Sunderland, there are still 1,686 who remain under the radar.
Last year, the number diagnosed with dementia was 1,661, up from 1,574 the previous year.
However, the Alzheimer’s Society believes there are 3,347 actual sufferers.
Caroline Burden, from the North East Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s encouraging to see an increase in the number of people receiving a diagnosis in the North East.
“But half of people that are living with dementia aren’t receiving the support, benefits and the treatments that are often available.
“The NHS has made a commitment to improving diagnosis rates, so now it is time for that commitment to turn into action locally, to help ensure that people in the North East can live well with the condition.”
Brian Shaw, 76, of Roker, cared for wife Audrey after she was diagnosed with vascular dementia at the age of 60.
“Her memory just started to go,” he said. “She would do things like put the teabag in the kettle instead of the teapot or try to put her shoes on back to front.
“She was such a beautiful woman but, by the time she died, she weighed just 5st.
“It’s terrible to watch that happen to someone you love.”
Brian, a retired miner, says he understands how cases can go undiagnosed after his experience looking after Audrey. He added: “If people start noticing something different, they should immediately go to see their GP.
“I want them to know there is support out there in Sunderland should they need it,. They don’t have to face this terrible condition alone.”
After five years of being cared for at home, mum-of-two Audrey was moved into Riverview Lodge in Southwick before she died in March 2010.
Brian said: “Audrey was such a loving person. She worked at Vaux Brewery until she was 58. Two years later she was diagnosed.
“She loved her corgis. She had three of them, she was such an animal fan.”
Brian, who was married to Audrey for 49 years, now helps out each week with other sufferers and their carers.
He added: “This condition killed Audrey in 10 years. It’s hard to watch that happen to someone who you love. In many ways, it’s just like looking after a child all over again.”
The latest figures reveal that in County Durham the number of people diagnosed with dementia rose from 3,043 to 3,308, while in South Tyneside there was an increase from 1,122 to 1,258.
Overall, in the North East, there has been 16,500 people diagnosed with the condition, up 1,500 since last year.
Crucially though, there are thought to be another 16,700 people who are living with the condition in the North East, but who are not diagnosed.
l For information contact Sunderland Alzheimer’s Society on 564 0890.