FIVE years ago this week my mum died, after having dementia for nearly two decades.

My dad was terminally ill at the time and, had he died first, we would’ve had to sell their house to put Mum into care.

Mum couldn’t feed, wash or dress herself, she could no longer speak or move and relied completely on my dad being at home with her, and a care team visiting daily. With my siblings and I working fulltime, we simply couldn’t have provided the round-the-clock care at home that she needed.

The prospect of us putting her into a care home, if he died before her, weighed heavily on my dad in the final months of his life.

Over the past two decades, the average cost of a nursing home place has almost doubled and now nears £1,000 a week. The typical cost of dementia care is £100,000. Due to the complexity of the condition, it’s on average 15 per cent more expensive than other types of social care - the Alzheimer’s Society call this the ‘Dementia Penalty’.

According to the charity, one million people in the UK will have dementia by 2021. Yet, says chief executive Jeremy Hughes, the social care system “is in disarray, completely unprepared to support the growing numbers of people receiving a dementia diagnosis”.

People with dementia and their families often have to spend upwards of £100,000 on care “just because they happened to have developed dementia and not some other disease”.

Next week Dame Barbara Windsor, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, will deliver an open letter to 10 Downing Street calling for urgent action and long-term investment into dementia care. The letter urges the Government to:

* End the Dementia Penalty and bring fairness into the system by investing in a new £2.4 billion Dementia Fund;

* Ensure all health and social care workers are given the training and support they need to deliver high quality dementia care;

* Provide everyone with dementia with a care navigator so they have access to the right support when they need it.

Many people are struggling to get the care they desperately need. It is often a process of confusion, delays and red tape. My family struggled too, until I made a desperate ‘phonecall to the Alzheimer’s Society one day and they helped us get the right support.

Barbara Windsor’s husband Scott Mitchell has been meeting people affected by dementia and says many feel they’re being “punished”.

“Not only do people have to live with it and go through the terror and horror...on top of that they’ll say ‘Let’s make it a bit more difficult’,” he says in a new video. “I genuinely feel for people that have to give up their jobs and sell their homes, selling their parents’ homes they’ve worked all their lives for. You do wonder, how did we get to a situation where there is so much disregard for people?”

As far as I see it, the NHS is built on the principle of access based on clinical need, not ability to pay. Isn’t it time people with dementia got the same treatment? There are, warns the Alzheimer’s Society, 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, and 225,000 will have developed it this year - one every three minutes. Seventy per cent of people in care homes have dementia, and over 42,000 people under 65 have it. My mum was diagnosed in her mid-fifties.

More than 50,000 people have now signed the open letter, at

I am one of them.

* WELL done to the organisers of this year's Harley Davidson Rally in Baildon, which was one of the best yet.

Descending on August Bank Holiday weekend for 40 years, it's one of the North's biggest biker events. Hundreds of people, toddlers to pensioners, were out in the sunshine, enjoying live music and more than 500 magnificent bikes which had travelled from across Europe. I loved it; fabulous atmosphere and a great boost for local businesses and charities. Here's to those who worked hard to organise such an excellent event. Long may this summer tradition roar on.

* A WORD of advice for Motsi Mabuse: when you land a job as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, it's probably best that you don't diss Blackpool...

The new Strictly judge hasn't got off to the best start, after it emerged that she once called the Lancashire resort the ugliest town she had ever seen. To be fair, she made the comment in her book several years ago, but it does seem a bit daft for a professional dancer to publicly criticise the home of British ballroom.

Love or loathe Blackpool (I love it), I defy anyone to visit the Tower Ballroom and not be blown away by its beauty. It's really something to see couples of all ages gliding across the dance floor. And it is, of course, a much-loved venue on Strictly's calendar. Good luck with the Blackpool show, Motsi!

* THERE’S nothing quite as pampered as a pregnant panda.

This week Berlin’s zoo released footage of an ultrasound scan of six-year-old panda Meng Meng, who mated for the first time with nine-year-old Jiao Qing, and was also artificially inseminated. Zookeepers used biscuits and honey water to persuade Meng Meng to lie down for her scan.

Yes, pandas are lovely and all that, but if they can’t even breed on their own, or take years to do so, are they worth conserving? Chris Packham controversially said the species isn’t strong enough to survive alone, and that the millions spent on preserving them could be better used elsewhere in conservation. Quite. We preserve pandas because they’re cute, while less photogenic creatures are left to go extinct. Time to let nature take its course and fund more sustainable areas of conservation.