ONE person develops dementia every three minutes in the UK. That person could be you. Or your parents. Or even one of your children.

Around 6,000 people in the Bradford district live with dementia. Someone I know is still in their thirties. So don’t go thinking it’s just something that might happen to your granny in her old age.

And, since there are many different types of dementia, there’s a lot more to the condition than memory loss and confusion.

Dementia isn’t an issue taken up by hot celebrities, or young Royals. Yet it’s one of the biggest health epidemics we face. Most people will be touched by it in some way, at any time. So isn’t it time we started to talk about it?

This week is Dementia Action Week and the Alzheimer’s Society’s #AskUsAnything campaign is urging us to start a conversation. It comes as research shows that despite almost all of us knowing someone affected by dementia, two-thirds of people who have the condition say they feel isolated and lonely.

An #AskUsAnything video sees people who are living with dementia answering questions, busting myths and showing that they’re still the same people. It is being screened this week on the Alzheimer’s Society’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and in cinemas.

The campaign highlights how feeling awkward or worried about “saying the wrong thing” around people with dementia has a significant effect on the loneliness and isolation they experience. Over half the people in an Alzheimer’s Society survey said they didn’t feel comfortable inviting someone with dementia to a meal at their home.

It would seem that we don’t know how to act around people with dementia, and we don’t understand it, so we just stay away.

Yet 120,000 people who have dementia live alone - a number set to double in the next 20 years. Small acts of kindness, such as calling a relative with dementia or visiting a friend or neighbour, can make a big difference.

As Paul Smithson, Services Manager for Alzheimer’s Society Bradford, says: “Even in the later stages of dementia, when having a conversation might become difficult, keeping in touch can bring happiness and comfort, especially as the ‘emotional memory’ remains long after the memory of the visit may have gone.”

I know only too well how awkward people feel around dementia. My mother wasn’t much older than me when she was diagnosed with it, and once they knew she had dementia, many of her friends were nowhere to be seen. She’d always been in lots of organisations - WI, amateur theatre and the local church among them - and was the life and soul of her friends. Yet I can count on one hand those who visited her over the years when dementia took hold. “It upsets me too much to see her like that,” said one friend who no longer came to see her. I had to bite my lip.

The occasional visit by a familiar face, even for half-an-hour, would have made a big difference to Mum, and to us as a family. In the final years, it was just one kind family friend who remained just that - a friend.

This week organisations across the district are making a commitment to understanding and including people with dementia. From being patient with someone holding up a bus queue to helping someone get to grips with the lockers at the local leisure centre, there are very simple ways we can all be Dementia Friendly - helping people to live well with dementia and continue to be part of their community.
* MY heart goes out to the model railway club whose annual exhibition was trashed by vandals. Members of the Market Deeping club were in tears when their treasured exhibits, some of which took over 25 years to build, were destroyed. 
The club has been "overwhelmed" by donations of over £84,000 and will look at ways of helping other model railway clubs tighten security. Sir Rod Stewart, a long-standing model rail enthusiast, was "devastated" by the vandalism and gave £10,000.   
It's hard to imagine what kind of person takes pleasure in destroying something so precious to so many people. I once wrote about a man who had a wonderful model railway in his loft; an intricate miniature world he'd been lovingly building for years. I was moved by his devotion to it. Shame on those who can so casually destroy such a thing.  

* CAN it really be two years since that dreadful night in Manchester? I still remember my niece's voice on the phone; exhausted, bewildered and in shock, the morning after. Like everyone else in Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, she went from euphoria to terror within seconds. "It was the best night of my life, and it turned into the worst," she said.
Two years on, our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones that night. And, even in this age of global terrorism, it is still impossible to comprehend how children and teenagers could be targeted in such a systematic way.