DEMENTIA has taken a firm hold in Swindon with the number of sufferers growing by nearly ten per cent in just two years.

In March this year, 1,156 people in the town were reported to have dementia. This represented a nine per cent increase on 2012-2013 when 1,051 patients had the condition.

This saw Swindon overtake the national dementia levels, which rose by just 7.8 per cent between 2012 and 2014, going from 317,606 to 344,408 sufferers.

A growing population, longer life expectancy as well as earlier diagnoses all contributed to the upward trend in known sufferers according to health chiefs.

Coun Brian Mattock, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “Although national research indicates that the risk of developing dementia is reducing, the number of people being formally diagnosed with the disease is increasing and this general trend also applies in Swindon.

“There are various reasons for this – firstly, increased life expectancy means the population comprises more older people and will continue to do so.

“Growing awareness of dementia plays a role in the increased diagnosis levels, as more people recognise the symptoms and seek help.

“Being diagnosed not only enables people to access services, but also puts a name to symptoms and behaviour which were previously unexplained.”

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities.

This includes problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding and judgement.

While this growth could prove challenging in the town, new support services have been put in place such as the Swindon Dementia Alliance to assist sufferers and their families.

Coun Mattock said: “There is currently a national ‘Dementia Friends’ campaign, which aims to further improve people’s understanding of the condition.

“You mighthave noticed cardboard cut-out figures placed in various community venues, signposting people to the website

“There are a range of support services in Swindon, including Singing for the Brain and Memory Cafes which are provided through the local Alzheimer’s Society.

“A community-led Swindon Dementia Action Alliance has also been set up, including representatives from agencies such as the police and charitable trusts, which aims to make Swindon a dementia friendly place to live.

“Its work focuses on liaising with businesses and the community to support people who have dementia and their carers.”