The ‘stigma’ of dementia needs to be overcome to ensure people receive the support they need, West Sussex County Council has been told.
The issue was raised at a meeting of the full council during a question-and-answer session which included queries about adults’ social care.
When asked what could be done to improve the diagnosis rate, Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, said: “It’s really about promoting what is available out there to people who unfortunately suffer from dementia.
“There’s still a stigma around that and we need to get over that, we need to keep promoting it.
“Just because you’ve had a diagnosis of dementia, doesn’t mean to say you cannot continue to live a healthy, active life.”
A report to the meeting said an estimated 13,878 people in West Sussex were living with dementia.
With the diagnosis rate only 65.9 per cent, that left more than 4,700 people coping without a diagnosis and without the support they needed.
That support is available, both for sufferers and their carers, but Mrs Jupp said the problem lay in convincing some of them to ask for help.
She said: “I think one has to try to imagine what it must be like for people who realise they have got onset dementia or things aren’t quite as they should be.
“It must be quite difficult to come to terms with the fact that you’re not in as much control as you used to be.
“If people are on their own it’s more difficult because they are perhaps not able to communicate and they might go into their shell.
“It’s also about persuading carers they are not coping with this on their own.
“They need to engage with support. We’ve got good support out there. There are lots of charities or people in the voluntary sector who do support those people who are suffering from dementia.
“We need to make sure we encourage people to seek help. Unless the individual is prepared to find out how they can source this help or get the support, we can’t do it for them. That’s the problem.
“We need to make them realise that it’s not a terrible thing – we can support them, we can help them and they can continue to live really good active lives.
“It’s down to us to make sure that we dispel that myth.”
Morwen Millson (Lib Dem, Horsham Riverside) spoke about the need to lobby West Sussex MPs for more funding for social care.
She said: “The government needs to be told repeatedly the needs of social care are urgent and must be understood.”
Mrs Jupp agreed and said MPs would be presented with a ‘long list’ of thing that were needed.
She added: “During the election I was often shouting at the radio because I felt social care didn’t get enough of a heads-up.”
The report said the county council currently paid for support for around 850 people aged 65 and over who needed help with memory and cognition, at a weekly cost of around £290,000.