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UK must 'transform' social care for people with dementia, says Sue Holderness

For Dementia Action Week, the actor spoke candidly about caring for her mother and learning about its impact on other families

Sue Holderness for Dementia Action Week

Her mother started showing dementia symptoms in her late eighties, Holderness said. Image: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

This Dementia Action Week, around 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, and with an ageing population somebody is diagnosed every three minutes. But it doesn’t just affect the person with the condition, it can take a toll on those caring for a loved one.

Now well over a year into the pandemic, people with dementia and their families are still getting to grips with how lockdown impacted their wellbeing.

Only Fools and Horses actor Sue Holderness spoke to The Big Issue about her mother’s dementia diagnosis and fighting for social care reforms.

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Dementia… that scary word.  My darling mum began to get confused and forgetful in her early eighties. It was clearly horribly upsetting for her to find that words just disappeared. (She was always a compulsive reader and very good at all word games). Her short-term memory became fuzzy, and it was sad to witness the distress that it caused her.

Her personality remained the same though, sweet and loving and appreciative of all that my sister and I did for her. We were lucky enough to be able to care for her ourselves until the end. But I have, since my mum died, become very close to a few people with quite profound memory problems, and have seen how difficult it is for the people concerned and particularly to their loved ones who often need to become carers.

There is help out there; Alzheimer’s Society provides information and support and can do a great deal to help. By 2025 there will be one million people living with dementia in the UK, making dementia the greatest healthcare challenge facing our society. 

It is social care, not the NHS, that people affected by dementia rely on. The government urgently needs to act now to transform the social care system for families facing dementia. Please spread the word among your friends and in your community, and visit the Alzheimer’s Society website to find ways that you can support.

For more information this Dementia Action Week you can also access these Alzheimer’s Society documents: Carers: Looking after yourself factsheet, Communicating factsheet and the Carers Guide on their website.

To sign the petition to #CureTheCareSystem and support Dementia Action Week (17-23 May 2021) visit alzheimers.org.uk/DAW. And for information, advice and support call Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line (0333 150 345) or visit our website.

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