Surrey campaigner highlights impact of dementia at House of Lords

Posted on 5th November 2015

Surrey campaigner Shaheen Larrieux travelled to Westminster this week (4 Nov) to help Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, raise awareness of the devastating impact of dementia on women in the UK.

House of Lords women report launch
Shaheen Larrieux (second right) at the House of Lords

At the parliamentary launch of the charity’s report, Women and Dementia: A Marginalised Majority, MPs and Peers heard how dementia has a disproportionate impact on women, with women more likely to be affected by the condition and more likely to become carers. During the event at the House of Lords, Shaheen, from Wallington, told of her experiences as a carer for her mother Hosna, who has frontotemporal dementia.

Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK, including over 16,000 people in Surrey alone. The condition is caused by brain diseases which lead to the loss of brain cells, impairing the brain’s ability to function properly. Currently there are no treatments available that can slow or stop the course of these diseases.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s report highlights the huge toll of dementia on women in the UK, showing:

  • Over 500,000 people with dementia – 61% – are women
  • Women in their 60s are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer
  • Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in the UK, accounting for 12% of women’s deaths in 2013
  • Between 60 and 70% of all unpaid dementia carers are women, and women are more than twice as likely to provide intensive, 24-hour care than men
  • Female carers report feeling less supported than their male counterparts

Shaheen knows only too well the impact dementia can have. A former chemical engineer and management consultant, and an MBA graduate of MIT Sloan School of Management, Shaheen gave up a high-flying career to become a full-time carer when her mother was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. She said:

“Mum’s disease first started with changes in her behaviour: she became aggressive and began to fall out with friends, and as the disease crept on we noticed her behaviour becoming more extreme. At first no-one put it down to a medical issue, and we had a long struggle to get an accurate diagnosis. We found there was very little support, and even now that we have a care package in place for Mum, it can be a full-time job to make sure her needs are met.

“Mum is still relatively young and physically active, but slowly all the doors started shutting in terms of living as part of the community. There is still a stigma attached to dementia and a lack of understanding, but I hope that by sharing my experiences I can help make more people aware of the realities of the condition.”

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“Shaheen’s story is one that will be recognised by many families in Surrey and across the UK, and our report shows that women are being hit particularly hard by this devastating condition. The experiences of these women underline the urgent need to tackle the diseases that cause dementia – if we could delay the onset of dementia by five years we could reduce the number of people with the condition, and the number of carers, by a third. Investment in research is vital if we are to find new preventions and treatments capable of transforming people’s lives.”

Posted in Policy news