A “timely diagnosis” of dementia is vital to allow patients and their families to manage the condition, British experts said.

A study found tens of thousands of elderly people with undiagnosed dementia could be putting themselves and others at risk through driving, according to new research.

They could also be putting themselves in danger by cooking and managing their own medication.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia is one of the greatest social and economic challenges of our time affecting 46.8 million people globally and costing £556 billion each year, and the human cost is even higher.

“Dementia affects the lives of individuals and their families in many different ways, often causing social isolation, financial strain and impacting on both psychological and physical health.

“A timely diagnosis which identifies the form of dementia accurately can allow those living with dementia and their loved ones the opportunity to better manage their condition with treatments, access to appropriate care and opportunities to get involved in research.

“It is important that people with dementia are supported to maintain a full and independent life, with a timely diagnosis of dementia enabling support to manage any risks that may develop as a result of the condition.

“The need to understand the diseases which underpin this devastating condition has never been greater.

“Research has the power to defeat dementia and through the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK scientists we hope to achieve more accurate and timely diagnoses as well as working towards a treatment to slow down or stop dementia in its tracks.”

The study of more than 7,000 over 65s published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found those who probably have the condition are almost twice as likely as recognised patients to engage in such activities.

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