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'Money spent on cure for dementia is pitiful'

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: February 15, 2011

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PEOPLE effected by dementia in Gloucestershire have called for more cash to be ploughed into researching the disease.

Their cries come in the wake of the stance taken by Sir Terry Pratchett, who has a rare form of dementia and says it needs the type of aggressive action seen for tackling HIV in the 1980s.

The author, who once worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board at Barnwood, said: "Alzheimer's is a large number of small tragedies usually played out behind closed doors, so in spite of the numbers living with it, the world still doesn't take much notice.

"When the world was shocked by HIV in the 80s we saw a crash programme of research which has helped tame it enormously. We need the same kind of aggressive action on dementia now."

A new report for Alzheimer's Research UK shows that for every UK scientist working on dementia, six work on cancer.

Dementia costs the UK economy £23bn, more than cancer (£12bn) and heart disease (£8bn) combined, according to the organisation.

About 8,000 people in Gloucestershire have dementia but this is expected to rise to nearly 12,000 by 2025.

Ann Carter, support services manager for the Alzheimer's Society Gloucestershire, has branded the money spent on researching the disease at a national level as "pitiful".

She said: "The society has been campaigning for more research.

"I think people need hope. They want to know that there are answers coming and that there might be treatments.

"We have a lot of people that give us donations and they say they want it to go to research."

Mrs Carter says dementia sufferers themselves give money for research – even though it is unlikely to help them. People are keen to even participate in research projects as they say they will try anything," she added.

There is currently no cure for the disease and a national poll has found people fear the disease more than cancer or even death.

Sara Kewley, whose father Ray Walters, was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, highlighted a lack of understanding about dementia.

The 37-year-old, from Cirencester, said: "Until my dad got it I didn't know much about it.

"My dad was in his 50s when he got it and that's not old. I would welcome more research – people need to be aware that it's out there. Money is needed to cover the whole of dementia and not just sweep it under the carpet as though it's not there."

June Hennell, whose husband Brian, 72, has dementia, echoed the call for more funding for research.

Mrs Hennell, from Stonehouse, said: "Any funds spent on research is an investment. It's about spending to save because we already know the high cost of care in later life. Any research discovery which reduced those costs, or prevented early onset of dementia, or improved the lives of those effected, would release valuable funds for other pressing needs."

Care services minister Paul Burstow says dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing society.

He said: "As our population ages we need to better understand the disease if we are to counter its effects more successfully.

"Research is the key to developing new treatments, transforming care and ultimately to finding a cure for this devastating disease. The Department of Health's research budget is nearly a billion this year – I want more of that funding to be supporting dementia research.

"But we can only do that if the number and quality of the research proposals are of the right standard to justify the investment.

"To help dementia sufferers and their families to benefit, we will help researchers to submit high quality proposals which advance our understanding of care, cure and cause."

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    Peter, Upton St. Leonards  |  February 15 2011, 11:24AM

    The effect on pedants, of which I am one, when we see an awful error in print is that our concentration on an important story such as this is affected to the extent that the error takes precedence. Effect is a noun. Affect is a verb. No wonder there are few bylines in this paper.

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