POOLS legend Joe Allon is urging people to speak out about dementia as figures revealed 1,173 people suffer from the illness in the town.
The former Pools forward lost his mum Elizabeth, 72, to brain disease dementia eight years ago, a tragic loss that sparked his own battle with depression.
Now the 48-year-old is putting his weight behind National Dementia Awareness Week, which is running until Saturday.
Currently there are 1,173 people in Hartlepool who live with dementia.
That is expected to rise to 1,349 by 2020.
The theme of this year’s appeal is “Don’t bottle it up” and Joe says speaking about the subject, often seen as “taboo”, can really help.
Joe, who has taken part in various initiatives in his native Tyneside in aid of dementia causes, said: “The theme this year is based on ‘worrying changes nothing but talking about things changes everything’.
“It aims to encourage everyone to have a conversation about dementia as it seems to be a taboo subject.”
In a poll carried out by The Alzheimer’s Society, of 1,043 people surveyed, 73 per cent felt that dementia is a difficult subject to talk about.
The charity is today warning that this reluctance to open up about dementia is contributing to the fact that 52 per cent of the 800,000 people living with the condition in the UK are yet to receive a diagnosis, denying them access to treatment and support.
Joe, who was at Pools from 1988-1991 and then from 1995-1999, urged people to visit www.alzheimers.org.uk, adding: “It’s all about raising awareness to the services that support both sufferers and carers.
“I don’t think people realise we go on with our lives and take everything on, but three out of five people will suffer some form of mental illness.
“And one out of three people aged over 65 will die with dementia.
“When I lost my mother eight years ago, I didn’t understand about the illness.
“I just thought it was wrong for her to be suffering in that way, and I bottled it up.”
Elizabeth, of Gateshead, had suffered for two years with the condition, which Joe calls an “unforgiving illness”, before she passed away.
“People lose their dignity, it’s got to be put out there,” he said.
“The Government are backing it now and there are some really high-profile people whose relatives have suffered with it are also on board.”
Joe, who lives in Chester-le-Street and now speaks on the after-dinner circuit, will be speaking out about how dementia affected his family through various media outlets this week.
To mark the week, Hartlepool Day Centre, formerly Alzheimer’s Day Centre, laid on a carers lunch yesterday at The Melbourne Hotel, and representatives will be hosting information sessions today and tomorrow at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, Thursday at the People’s Centre and Friday in the Borough Hall, all from 10am-3.30pm.
The Alzheimer’s Society has also launched a high-profile Dementia Friend campaign urging people to understand more about dementia.