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17.05.2021

Its Dementia Action Week 17th – 23rd May!

Led by Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Action Week is a national event that sees the public coming together to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

This Dementia Action Week, Alzheimer’s Society is asking you to help cure the care system by urging the government to reform social care now.

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain. There are over 200 subtypes of dementia, but the five most common are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia and these are commonly called mixed dementia.

Dementia can affect a person at any age but it is more commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65 years. A person developing dementia before age 65 is said to have young onset dementia.

There are over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this is set to rise to over one million by 2025.

Symptoms of dementia

Regardless of which type of dementia is diagnosed and what part of the brain is affected, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.

The symptoms of dementia can include:

Memory problems

People with dementia might have problems retaining new information. They might get lost in previously familiar places and may struggle with names. Relatives might notice the person seems increasingly forgetful, misplacing things regularly.

Cognitive ability, ie, processing information

People with dementia may have a problem with their concentration level which can also impact their short term memory. They may also have difficulty with time and place, for example, getting up in the middle of the night to go to work, even though they’re retired. There may be a difficulty when shopping with choosing the items and then selecting the right money to pay for them. For some people, the ability to reason and make decisions may also be affected. Some people with dementia may get a sense of restlessness and prefer to keep moving than sit still; others may be reluctant or lack the motivation to take part in activities they used to enjoy.

Communication

People with dementia may repeat themselves often or have difficulty finding the right words. Reading and writing might become challenging. They can lose interest in seeing others socially. Following and engaging in conversation can be difficult and tiring, and so a formerly outgoing person might become quieter and more introverted. Their self-confidence might also be affected.

Mood and behaviour

People with dementia might experience changes in personality, behaviour, mood, and have some elements of anxiety and depression due to the changes they are experiencing.

People living with dementia have been among the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. We can all play a role in supporting those in our communities who are living with dementia and their carers.

Getting a diagnosis of dementia

If someone is showing symptoms associated with dementia it is important to visit a GP as soon as possible. Some conditions might look like dementia as they affect a person’s memory, concentration or behaviour but are treatable if addressed quickly. These include infections, thyroid problems, delirium, confusion, vascular problems related to circulatory issues, vitamin B12 deficiency, sleep apnoea, stress, anxiety and depression.

To establish if dementia is present, a GP will take a medical and family history of the person and will screen them for mental health and cognitive issues by asking questions, testing concentration, assessing short term memory, identifying mood and behaviour changes.

The GP may then request blood tests, an MRI or CT scan to examine the structure of the brain. If other physical health conditions are suspected they may also request blood tests and X-rays to check for any conditions that may mimic dementia.

Once the GP has ruled out potentially treatable causes of the changes observed, they may also refer the person to a memory service/clinic, or to a specialist for further investigation and assessment.

If a diagnosis of dementia is given, the GP should then ensure that the person with the diagnosis and their family are made aware of any specialist advice and support services in their area, as well as referring them for further assessments and interventions that may help. This support can come from a range of organisations, including health and social care professionals and the voluntary sector.

You can call or email our Admiral Nurses for specialist support and advice. Call 0800 888 6678 or email helpline@dementiauk.org.

Who gets dementia and can it be prevented?

About 10% of young-onset dementias can be due to genetic mutations such as some forms of frontotemporal dementia, Huntington’s disease and rare varieties of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, in older age, most cases of dementia are not thought to be inherited and recent research suggests that you can delay or prevent dementia by making some changes to your lifestyle. Everything that keeps your heart healthy can also keep your brain healthy. So, eat a balanced healthy diet, keep weight within recommended levels, keep hydrated, don’t smoke, avoid drinking too much alcohol, have regular check-ups with your GP and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control. If you have been diagnosed with type two diabetes you will need to follow any advice you have been given to manage this effectively and ensure that your blood sugar levels remain under control.

Stay physically active and mentally stimulated with different activities so that you use different parts of the brain. For example, walking, gardening, singing, art, music, reading, and other hobbies and interests are thought to help prevent or delay the onset of dementia.

There is no compelling research that says doing puzzles will improve brain health, however, learning another language is helpful because different parts of the brain are stimulated and this can enhance cognitive function.

For help and guidance on dementia

Dementia UK

Dementia Action Week | Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk)

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