A FUNDING crisis at a district charity could mean the closure of a vital support network for dementia sufferers and their loved ones. Operating in a district where the population is older than the national average, the Huntingdonshire branch of the Alzheimer's Society currently provides advice and care for more than 200 people who face the progressive condition. However, statistics reveal there may be up to 15,000 people across the district who experience dementia in one form or another. The local Alzheimer's Society, which forms part of the national organisation but is funded independently, relies almost entirely on public support and grants. Providing two specially-trained out-reach workers for a total of 50 hours a week and other services including support groups, costs the charity around \u00A342,000 each year, with a quarter funded by Cambridgeshire County Council. Now without a major funding boost, the group is "in real danger" of collapsing by the end of the tax year, according to its chairman. Those who benefit from its support say they would be at a loss without the organisation. Betty Young, 74, whose husband, Peter, 78, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, praised the charity and its workers, who provide invaluable advice. "It's about providing a listening ear and I always know they are there if I come up against a problem," said Mrs Young. The couple from Brampton has been living with the Alzheimer's prognosis for about three years, although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the progressive condition came about. At this stage Mrs Young does not have to complete many daily care tasks for her husband, such as washing or dressing, but she is aware his condition can only deteriorate. The Alzheimer's Society provides support at every stage of the condition, even for relatives of those who have not yet received a diagnosis. "Support you need can depend on how far down the road you are - I think we have still got quite a way to go," said Mrs Young. Without the existence of the Huntingdonshire branch, carers could turn to the Hunts Carers' Support Project but it does not provide expert advice for Alzheimer's sufferers. According to branch chairman, Mike Davison, carers have reacted with dismay at the possibility of losing the service and more people could be affected than realise it. "At the moment we are only dealing with a small proportion of the people who may need support in the district," he said. "Dementia is not a very fashionable cause and many do not want to think about it or just put certain symptoms down to old age. We have a slightly older age profile here in Hunts than the national average and certainly the problem is only going to get worse as the population ages." INFORMATION: The Huntingdonshire branch of the Alzheimer's Society holds its annual general meeting on June 9. To support the charity or find out more details, call 01480 415235.