WHEN Jan and Ralph Burrage found out he had dementia they thought life as they knew it had been shattered.

But 18 months later the 85-year-old still lives a healthy and active lifestyle and the couple have joined an Oxfordshire-wide dementia campaign to dispel myths about the syndrome.

The retired puppet designers from Church Green in Witney are helping spearhead the year-long Oxfordshire De-mentia Awareness Campaign and took to the stage in Chipping Norton to discuss their experiences.

The campaign sets out to raise peoples’ awareness about the set of diseases which fall under the umbrella term dementia and encourages the message you can live well with dementia.

The number of dementia sufferers in Oxfordshire stands at almost 7,000 and is expected to reach 8,200 by 2016.

Mrs Burrage now cares for her husband of 36 years.

She said: “It was a serious shock. I felt devastated when we were told Ralph had dementia in October 2011.

“I didn’t know much about it. If this campaign was running two years ago it would have been so much more comforting – it would have shown me there are people to talk to and that life goes on as it always did.

“There are down sides to dementia, of course, but you get through it. I was a little bit cautious about getting help because I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t cope.

“But I am not giving up on him now. He is back playing the clarinet, which he hadn’t done for years, and has got all sorts of things back in his life.”

Maria Parsons, director of Creative Dementia Arts Network in Summertown, supports dementia sufferers including Mr Burrage and their families with music, singing, theatre, drama, dance, visual arts, crafts.

She said: “The campaign encourages people not to be worried or afraid but to get help and ask questions. It proves you really can do things you were always able to.”

Mr Burrage’s sense of humour has obviously not changed.

He joked: “I am demented. It’s no problem really.

“I seem to be the same person I always was. The campaign is very worthwhile and I’m sure a lot of people will be helped out by it.”

The campaign hosted by Oxfordshire Dementia Em-powerment Group has events in Wantage on May 22 and Banbury on September 10. The events invite sufferers and carers to discuss the syndrome and symptoms.

Information leaflets and charity workers will also explain the number of support networks in Oxfordshire.