A MAN who has battled dementia for the last six years has spoken out over the stigma still associated with the disease.
Brian Hamilton says he is often left annoyed and frustrated when people direct questions to his wife, even in hospital.
The 66-year-old spoke out as a campaign was launched to tackle the stigma associated with a disease predicted to become the 21st Century’s biggest killer.
The Alzheimer’s Society is calling on people to set aside their differences and unite to fight dementia.
The campaign comes as new survey figures show that 58 per cent of North-East adults felt their life would be over if they were diagnosed with dementia.
Mr Hamilton, from Fencehouses, is one of the 35,000 people in the North-East living with the disease.
Diagnosed with dementia aged 60, the Sunderland season ticket holder still attends home games and takes part in other activities.
He said: “Sometimes when I’m out with my wife Julie and we bump into someone we know they direct all their questions to her as if I’m incapable of answering for myself.
“That’s even happened to me in hospital. It can be frustrating and, if I’m honest, very annoying.
“My usual response is to just walk away. I think to myself, ‘well if they’re not going to even acknowledge I’m here then I might as well not be’ but on other occasions I tell them that despite having dementia, I can still communicate.
“I don’t think they mean any harm. I just think it’s because they don’t understand about dementia.” He added: “I cope quite well most of the time.
“I go to all of Sunderland’s home games, even though that’s quite depressing at the moment, and I try to stay active in other ways too. There’s still a lot I can do.
“Of course there are times when someone asks me a question and my mind gets stuck and I just can’t answer.
“That comes with the condition – but I just want them to give me the benefit of the doubt.”
As part of the campaign, a TV ad directed by Oscar-nominated Daniel Barber and voiced by actor Bill Nighy, will be screened for the first time tonight.
Hazel Cuthbertson, regional operations manager for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’re determined to bring everyone’s attention to the massive injustice faced by people with dementia and their carers.
“All too often they face stigma, a lack of understanding and are denied the support they need”.
She added: “Their experiences highlight how we still have a long way to go”.