A couple living with dementia have spoken out about the challenges they face.

Alan and Stephanie Tuddenham are telling their story to mark Dementia Awareness Week, which begins tomorrow.

The pair, from Northlands Wood, Haywards Heath, are backing the efforts of health officials and the Alzheimer’s Society to create dementia- friendly communities across Sussex.

The aim is to ensure those living with dementia can be supported to stay well, live independently and continue to play an active and pivotal role in local life.

Mr Tuddenham, 68, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just over a year ago.

He said: “I often feel like I’m looking in on family life from the outside, I’m no longer involved like I used to be. It’s quite hard not to be able to play with the grandchildren as I want to, but I just can’t.

“I do not feel like I have a role in life, as I always used to.

“I have lost all of that, I don’t know what life is about for me now. But I have to just pick my feet up and get on with it.”

Mrs Tuddenham, 64, said: “It is important people understand, so they are not frightened of someone with dementia.

“We can be frightened if someone is not behaving in the way they always have, or you don’t understand why they are acting in a certain way.

“Because there is no cure for dementia, I think people find it hard to know how to react.

“Many of the things that people with Alzheimer’s do – it’s not them, it’s the disease showing.

“If someone is acting differently, it’s their symptom, much like someone with a broken leg would walk with a limp. They cannot help it.”

The number of people diagnosed with dementia is rising faster in parts of Sussex compared to the national average, mainly due to the county’s high number of older residents.

Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group clinical director Terry Lynch said: “Only by identifying and acknowledging the challenges that dementia brings to our communities can we have a hope of giving the right care and support to the people that need it. This challenge starts by recognising that people have memory problems, getting help as early as possible and creating a community that supports not just the person with dementia, but their caring and hardworking family and friends.”

For more details about upcoming awareness events and forums about dementia-friendly communities, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk.