A County Durham mum is among the thousands in our region preparing for Christmas with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Anita Goundry, from Spennymoor, County Durham was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia in 2020, after years of being misdiagnosed due to her age.

The 55-year-old used to be a huge fan of Christmas, but says everything changed when after her diagnosis.

It comes as new figures from the Alzheimer’s Society reveal 65% of carers say dementia has robbed them of a joyful and carefree festive season.

The stats come from a survey laying bare the devastation caused by dementia and its impact on families at Christmas.

Caring for loved ones with dementia is leaving some (5%) carers at breaking point with many saying they feel emotionally drained (41%) and physically exhausted (27%), the survey reveals.

The Northern Echo: Anita Goundry.Anita Goundry. (Image: PR)

A quarter of people with dementia (24%) are no longer able to take part in any Christmas activities or recognise family or friends. Tragically, one in five (21%) are unable to hold a conversation with loved ones.

For ex-social worker Anita, her diagnosis has totally change her festive season.

She said: “Christmas was always a big occasion involving family and friends. I remember once I cooked dinner for 15 people.

“I’d start planning weeks in advance. I used to make wreaths, quilted blankets and six Christmas cakes – one for the family and the others to give as presents.

“We’d eat together and play games well into the evening. It was always fantastic, and I loved it.

“But it’s totally different now. This year there will just be three of us on Christmas day, my new partner Gary, who I married in September, and my son Harley. And I’ll hopefully see my daughter Megan on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day.

“Since my diagnosis, I find big get-togethers confusing and scary. I can’t follow the conversations and become agitated and even paranoid at times.

“I can’t take control the way I used to either. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate long enough to make Christmas dinner. I’d get confused with the timings and the number of ingredients.

“I can’t even assemble our artificial tree anymore or make wreaths, which is something I’d previously done for many years. It’s heart-breaking really, but for me Christmas now comes with so much more stress.

“But I am trying to look on the bright side. This will be mine and Gary’s first Christmas as a married couple, so I’m starting a new chapter of my life and I’m determined to make the most of it.

“While Christmas day will be very different this year – and much quieter than it used to be – it’ll be a case of ‘let’s see how it works’ and we will hopefully find a way to make this time of year special again.”

One in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime.  More than 39,000 in the North East are living with the terminal disease.

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Helen Mayne from The Alzheimer's Society North East said: “Christmas should be joyful but for many of the 900,000 people living with dementia and their families, their Christmases have changed forever.

“Over a third of carers (36%) we spoke to say the greatest Christmas gift they could receive would be talking to someone who understands.

“Our Dementia Advisers are just a call or a click away. They can give someone the guidance, advice, and empathy they desperately need.

“If you’re able to, please help us be there for everyone living with dementia this Christmas whatever the day brings, by donating to our Christmas Appeal.”