Ex-Northampton police officer waited two years for dementia diagnosis – now he’s urging others to seek help sooner

Over a third of people with dementia in East Midlands battle symptoms for over two years before getting a diagnosis

Saturday, 21st May 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 8:28 pm

A former Northampton police officer diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after nearly two years of uncertainty and being told his symptoms were depression and anxiety says his diagnosis is a ‘breath of fresh air’.

When Peter Middleton told he had dementia in 2019 at the age of 64, it finally explained why he was behaving out of character – failing to keep deadlines and missing meetings.

New Alzheimer’s Society research reveals confusing symptoms with old age is one of the main reasons for delay.

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Peter Middleton

A survey of more than 1,000 people with diagnosed dementia, carers and people without a diagnosis, found more than a third in the East Midlands lived with the condition for more than two years, before getting a diagnosis.

Peter, a former Police Community Support Officer in Northampton, said: “I finally had an answer to why I had been behaving so out of character.

“I would miss deadlines and turn up to work meetings at the wrong time or place. This was really out of character and I couldn’t work out why I was making mistakes like this.

“I sought help from my GP and within a five-minute conversation I was given a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. I knew deep down it wasn’t that, as did my wife Pam.

Ten signs of dementia

“During this time, we had a new doctor start within the police force. After listening to me she was the first person to mention the possibility of dementia.

"I eventually had a brain scan which did show shrinkage and my Alzheimer’s diagnosis was confirmed.”

Figures also showed a further 26 per cent of people in the East Midland region waited between one and two years for their diagnosis.

One of the main reasons for delay was that they assumed the symptoms were just part of getting old, leading to a delay in treatment, care and support.

Dementia describes a group of symptoms that include problems with memory, thinking or language, and changes in mood, emotions, perception and behaviour. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and is not a natural part of ageing.

In a bid to tackle the problem, Alzheimer’s Society has launched a campaign – ‘It’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill’ – to encourage people worried about their own or their loved ones’ memory to seek support.

Tina Kierman, Alzheimer’s Society’s Northamptonshire area manager, said: “Asking the same question over and over again is not called getting old, it’s called getting ill.

"If you’re worried for yourself or someone you love, take the first step and come to Alzheimer’s Society for support.

“The stark findings of our survey show just how dangerous it can be to battle dementia symptoms alone and put off getting help.

“Yes, getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but it is worth it. More than nine in 10 people with dementia told us they benefited from getting a diagnosis – it gave them crucial access to treatment, care and support, and precious time to plan for the future.”

■ Alzheimer’s Society urges anyone worried about themselves or someone they love to take the first step and contact the charity for support. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/memoryloss or call 0333 150 3456.