The Dreaded Disease

South Wales Guardian: BETI GEORGE: 'I've no real idea what a carer is meant to do.' BETI GEORGE: 'I've no real idea what a carer is meant to do.'

THE difficulties faced by Ammanford care workers is acknowledged in a special three-part BBC Wales investigation into dementia care which begins on Sunday (July 7).

Presenter Beti George, whose partner of almost 40 years – writer and broadcaster David Parry-Jones – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009, meets Andrea Hopkins at the Ammanford day care centre run by Hafan Dementia Care Charity, of which she is a trustee.

Andrea’s partner Ashley died last year and Ashley describes vividly how difficult the experience was.

“It feels like 48 hours in the day, rather than 24," she says. "I’ve known myself shake him, out of frustration, and tiredness, and then the guilt afterwards because you know it’s not his fault, it’s an illness.

"I was only in my mid-50s when Ashley got ill, and that was the end of my life. You can’t keep relationships up, you can’t keep friendships up, because any time that you have spare, you’re spending with them.

"Nobody can understand what you’re going through and how frightened you are of the future.”

During 'The Dreaded Disease - David’s Story' Beti George quotes figures from the Alzheimer’s Society, saying that carers save the state £8 billion a year.

“I am labelled as his carer,” she says Beti, “although I’ve no idea really what a carer is supposed to do, there are no guidelines, and anyway, this disease manifests itself in a different way in each of its victims.”

Dorothy McDonald, the founder of the Hafan Gofal charity in Glanaman, says on the programme that Wales is lagging behind in dementia care terms.

“Scotland are 20 years ahead of us, and it’s not the amount of money they’re spending, it’s the way that they’re thinking of people with dementia,” she says.

One in three people over 65 will die with dementia and, according to various surveys, the disease is by far the most feared by people over the age of 55.

BBC Radio Wales’s Focus on Dementia highlights the effects of the condition - including the social stigma, the role of carers and the efforts being made to ensure those with dementia can live as full a life as possible.

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