This is the grim reality of late-stage dementia. Once highly active and intelligent, now John Fenn is totally dependent on others. For his family it’s been hard to watch his progressive decline.
“He was driving my kids home who were all primary school age at that stage, back from their primary school, and was in the next village, just stopped the car and said to the kids, ‘I don’t know here I am’. Fortunately they were pretty with it, so they were able to say, ‘Grand-dad, this way, let’s get back home.'”
At a meeting of international experts, the prime minister said dementia stood alongside cancer as one of the enemies of humanity, with a big global push from government and scientists, effective treatments will be found.
“We have to fight to cure it, and I know some people will say that’s not possible, that we just have to accept this is just something that happens in all the life, but I am not prepared to take that defeatist attitude.”
But the pharmaceutical industry has shied away from investing the billions of pounds needed in developing new medicines.
So little is known about the disease, that the risk of failure is too high, and the new world dementia invoy says it is time to give the drug companies a break. “I think if there was a longer period where the drug can be sold exclusively, then pharma companies would be willing to invest more because there would be a bigger return. Now all those things are not without being contentious, I would freely admit that, I can’t think of a better way to kick-start this, because otherwise, I think if left to its own devices, it will be 2050 before we get as far as we want to get in the next ten years.”
The world’s biggest study of dementia will start shortly, with two million people in Britain taking part, and one hundred million pounds is being committed to finding drugs and testing them in patients sooner. Dementia still only receives a fifth of the money that goes into cancer research, yet there is greying optimism, that with global backing, scientists can find a treatment that delays grieve and cures the disease by 2025. “I’ve got a picture here, dad, you and mom on your wedding day.” For John’s family, it’s uncomfort that the terrible effect of dementia might soon be medical history.