Family affected by Alzheimer’s urge people to join research in battle to beat dementia

Keith and Pat Crofton. Photo from NIHR

Keith and Pat Crofton. Photo from NIHR - Credit: NIHR

A couple who are experiencing the impact of dementia say taking part in research has given them much comfort and support.

Graphic by Archant.

Graphic by Archant. - Credit: Archant

The lives of Keith and Pat Crofton, of Mulbarton, turned upside down in 2014 when Mrs Crofton was diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

She is among around 14,000 people in Norfolk who are living with dementia.

The Crofton's story

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After mother-of-two Mrs Crofton (then aged 60) was given her life-changing diagnosis, she and her husband found comfort through taking part in dementia research.

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Late last year dementia became the biggest killer in England and researchers are running a series of trials and studies across the country to help combat the various conditions.

Mrs Crofton, a retired orthopaedic practice manager, became involved in two research trials through a support group set up by the region's mental health trust (Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust).

She said: 'I found it brilliant. The nurses have been fantastic and we've been able to see the same people.

There are an estimated 14,000 people with living with dementia in Norfolk. Picture posed by model. P

There are an estimated 14,000 people with living with dementia in Norfolk. Picture posed by model. Photo credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

'I feel I can talk to someone about it. They understand my worries, my concerns, and they've also given me hope and focus.'

Her husband Keith is doing his bit by volunteering to raise awareness of dementia research, after becoming Norfolk's first 'Join Dementia Research Champion'.

Join Dementia Research is a programme that recruits people to take part in dementia studies and trials.

It is run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

'The whole thing about research is that it provides hope, and Join Dementia Research is an easy way to get involved,' Mr Crofton said.

'You just register and if you're contacted by a research team you can say yes or no to taking it further. It's as simple as that.

'A friend of ours had Alzheimer's disease and was hugely involved in research, and if it hadn't been for him the drugs Pat's on now wouldn't exist.

'So it's not just about us, it's about trying to help future generations as well if we can.'

Ben Underwood. Photo from NIHR

Ben Underwood. Photo from NIHR - Credit: NIHR

Research 'only way' to beat dementia

Nationally there are more than 250 ongoing dementia studies.

In this region there is dementia research taking place at organisations such as Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Norfolk Community Health and Care, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of East Anglia.

Medical experts say research offers hope - and it is the only way to beat dementia.

It comes at a time when organisations across Norwich have committed to making the city 'dementia-friendly'.

Dr Ben Underwood, eastern clinical lead for dementia, mental health, and neurology at NIHR, said: 'Dementia is the most pressing medical problem of our time.

'Perhaps one in three people reading this will experience some form of dementia in their lifetime.

'The condition not only affects individuals and people close to them, but the care required results in a significant financial cost.'

In good news Dr Underwood said the rate of increase in dementia is slowing down, and there are now far more treatments being worked on than 15 years ago.

How you can help dementia research

Organisers of 'Join Dementia Research' - the service which needs suitable people to trials and studies - are keen for more people to register as potential participants.

Researchers are looking for more volunteers living with dementia to register, but also people without dementia who are experiencing early memory problems.

Anyone aged 18 or more can register and people can act as a representative to register a loved one, including someone who has dementia who may find it difficult to register themselves.

Changes in the brain through diseases like Alzheimer's can start many years before symptoms begin to show, so studying people with mild memory problems gives researchers the best chance of understanding how dementia develops.

For more information click here.

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