Charity champion Vicki Graham has been to Westminster to tackle the stigma said to surround dementia.

Mrs Graham, from Dauntsey, was representing the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK at a dinner discussion in the House of Lords last week.

This is a subject very close to her heart, as her husband Jamie was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007 at just 59, and since then they have raised over £190,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Mrs Graham, 68, said: “Jamie had a high-powered job in IT but then one day the words on his PowerPoint presentation became a blur and his mind went blank mid-sentence. When he started to arrive for business meetings on the wrong day we knew something was wrong.

“I believe stigma around Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is due in part to lack of public awareness and understanding.

“Socialising is difficult; people don’t always know how to react or what to say to him. And shopping in a supermarket is out of the question now, Jamie would put things in the wrong trolley and people aren’t always tolerant.

“Having a positive focus to raise money and awareness to help Alzheimer’s Research UK defeat this devastating disease really helps me.”

The discussion was co-chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, a crossbench member of the House of Lords and chief executive of International Longevity Centre UK, who said: “Vicki’s contribution, through her firsthand knowledge of caring for her husband Jamie, was invaluable.”

A number of speakers discussed issues which may lie behind negative stereotyped responses. A global survey showed 75 per cent of people with dementia and 64 per cent of carers surveyed said there were negative associations with having dementia in their countries.

A report will now follow the discussion at Westminster, providing a basis for change.

Hilary Evans, director of external affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said more than 5,000 people in Wiltshire were affected by dementia.

She said: “Years ago people didn’t talk openly about cancer, they’d refer to it as a ‘long illness’ or ‘the big C’.

“Once the public started to speak out the stigma began to lift, it became an everyday word and the daily fayre of newspapers. With more understanding, greater funding followed, along with better forms of diagnosis, treatments and care. The debate in Westminster will bring us closer to achieving that goal with dementia.”

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