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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 00:11 GMT
'You are just left alone'
Shirley's husband died four years ago
More than 1.7 million people will develop dementia by 2051, London School of Economics and the Institute of Psychiatry researchers are predicting.

The report also highlights existing failings in the services for people with dementia.

Shirley Nurock is one of those who has been affected.

At 43, Shirley, from London, was looking forward to a happy future with her husband.

Their teenage children would soon be leaving home, and she and her husband Leonard, a GP in his 50s, could enjoy some quality time together.

But in the same year, Leonard was diagnosed with early-onset dementia - a diagnosis that would change both of their lives.

You are left alone just doing the best you can

Shirley, now 63, explained: "At the beginning, he could do things and go out, and I could leave him at home on his own.

"And to begin with, I didn't think we could possibly need help.

"But each day a little bit of him went further away.

"Eventually I had to do everything with him. I had to stop working."

Shirley was Leonard's only carer every day for seven years. But eventually it became too much.

She explained: "Bit by bit it dawns on you that you can't cope on your own and you need help.

"But I did not know who to turn to or what sort of help I needed.

"Your life just disappears, your family disappears and your friends. You are left alone just doing the best you can."

Daily struggle

She contacted the Alzheimer's Society, and they put her in touch with social services who arranged for a carer to visit for two hours twice a week.

And she claimed an invalid care allowance of about 40 a week. But this did not go far towards meeting her outgoing costs.

People with dementia are being rationed. It's criminal.

"Even caring for someone at home, there are all these hidden costs.

"You have got the heating and lights on all day and you have to adapt your home. There are so many special things you need.

"I would pay other carers to come in a look after him for an hour to two, but its expensive and exhausting to look for the help."

Desperate need

Towards the end of his life Leonard, went into residential care.

"It was agonising to see him decline. He had been healthy in every other way apart from his brain," Shirley recalls.

Leonard died in 2003.

She said there was a desperate need for better support for people with dementia and their families.

"You do not get much help from state services, and voluntary services are overstretched and pushed for cash. It made me angry and I am still angry now.

"Services are really fragmented. People with dementia are being rationed. It's criminal.

"It scares me for my own old age.

"There has to be some national framework put in place."

A dementia sufferer's relative speaks about the condition

Call for improved dementia care
22 Nov 06 |  Health

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