TV presenter calls for those with ‘dementia symptoms’ to take advice

A TV presenter whose dad died from dementia has urged people with symptoms to heed the advice of medics and come forward as early as possible.

Journalist Sarah Travers (40), who has worked for a variety of media outlets including ITV and the BBC, was devastated when her dad Ian died of the disease in 2013 after a five year decline.

The mum of two, who studied in Nottingham and started her career at BBC radio Nottingham and Central News, said if people recognised the symptoms earlier it would give them the best possible chance of getting support and treatment and their families the best chance to adapt.

NHS England is aiming to increase the rate of diagnosis so that two thirds of people with dementia will have a diagnosis and post diagnostic support by 2015 – an increase of 80,000 people.

Sarah, who now works for UTV in Northern Ireland, said: “Dad advised other people worried about serious memory lapses or behavioural changes to go to their GP sooner than he did, and talk to close family and friends about what they might have noticed.

“He knew there was something wrong but thought it was nothing. It’s so important people are diagnosed as soon as possible, like with cancer and other illnesses the sooner you know the more you can do about it.

“I think more people need to be aware of the symptoms so that, even if they are relatively young like dad, they can mention it to their GP as the possible cause of a number of symptoms.”

Ian was diagnosed with Alzheimers’ Disease very quickly after his family noticed symptoms but after his death doctors realised he had a very aggressive form of dementia known as Lewy body dementia.

The family has donated Ian’s brain for research which is another reason the NHS is encouraging diagnosis as the more people who sign up for research schemes the more can be understood about the illness.

Currently 393,000 people in England have a diagnosis of dementia out of the 683,000 estimated to have the condition.

NHS England, in parallel with the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia, has an ambition that two thirds of people with dementia will have a diagnosis and post diagnostic support by 2015.

Two thirds is 455,000 which leaves a gap of 62,000 people who need to be identified.

Dr Alistair Burns, NHS England’s Clinical Director for Dementia, said: “Sarah’s calls for people to come forward if they have symptoms of dementia are correct and the issues which her dad and family faced are unfortunately quite common.

“It really is the sooner the better – we hope more people are picking up on the signs of dementia and visiting the GP early and that GPs are looking out for signs in their patients and diagnosing where appropriate.”