'It can actually save lives' - First meeting of Suffolk Young Dementia Group
PUBLISHED: 17:05 17 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 17 February 2019
One man living with dementia has sung the praises of meeting others with the condition - helping him overcome the "embarrassment" and "isolation" after being diagnosed at just 50 years old.
Mental health charity Mind launched the Suffolk Young Dementia Group in Ipswich on February 17 to support those living with the condition and their carers.
Peter Berry, who was diagnosed with demential at 50, said he underestimated the scale of the change dementia would have on his life and his mental health.
“When you think about the enormity of what the future will hold, it lays heavy on your shoulders.
“I got very depressed and down about it in the first 12 months, me and my wife hardly told anybody, I felt embarrassed.
“One of the key things that I and so many other people in my position lack is peer support; having some sort of network with people in the same age group is very important.
“Peer support networks don’t just help people with dementia, it can actually save lives. It can save people from depression; it can save families and give people a sense of worth.
Mr Berry’s wife, Theresa, said: “This has been something that we’ve wanted for so long – I have never met a single person in Suffolk in the same boat as we are - it’s so isolating. To have a group that will hopefully grow and spread would be wonderful.”
The group, which is to help people who have traits or a diagnosis of young onset dementia, convened at DanceEast, on the Ipswich waterfront, on February 17.
The group was formed after a six-month trial by Suffolk Mind in 2018, which supported those living with dementia aged 30-65.
Figures suggest that those who live with the condition may be up to 9% of all people with dementia.
It is thought 12,800 people are living with dementia in Suffolk, but visitors on the day heralded the camaraderie the meeting inspired in the face of a life-changing condition.
Sue Gray, the Suffolk Young Dementia Network co-ordinator, said: “It’s frightening to go to the doctor and explore why your memory and planning abilities seem to be changing.
“Dementia is a life changing condition at any age but when you are young it is all the more difficult to take in and adjust to.
“We want people to be able to meet others in a similar situation - either face to face, via email or over the phone, and be able to exchange support and information.”