Dementia is a global epidemic
What is Dementia
Dementia is a global epidemic, with over 850,000 cases in the UK alone. It gradually and insidiously takes away personality, memories, confidence and capacity for communication and independence. This has devastating effects on the person living with dementia and others affected by this.
There is no cure, no way of preventing the decline and neither are in prospect in the short to medium term (e.g. see www.statnews.com/2018/08/15/alzheimers-patients-drug-development-outrage/).
In 2015, Dr Margaret Chan, former Director-General of the World Health Organisation said:
I can think of no other disease that has such a profound effect on loss of function, loss of independence, and the need for care. I can think of no other disease so deeply dreaded by anyone who wants to age gracefully and with dignity. I can think of no other disease that places such a heavy burden on families, communities and societies. I can think of no other disease where innovation, including breakthrough discoveries to develop a cure, is so badly needed.
Favourite music reaches parts of the brain that people living with dementia can no longer access on their own, including memories and emotions that soothe them and help their engagement with their ‘loved ones’. We put focus on songs from their teenage years and build playlists around related songs from that era.
Five things you should know about dementia
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
Dementia doesn’t affect only older people. There are over 40,000 cases in the UK of people with early-onset dementia – before the age of 65. Memory loss is only one symptom that affects people with dementia. Others can include difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour.
If you’re worried about your memory, or about someone else, the first thing to do is make an appointment with the GP.
Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain
Different types of dementia affect different parts of the brain. Some types of dementia are – vascular dementia, mixed (Alzheimer’s disease and vascular) dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia.
Everyone experiences dementia in their own way. Lots of things can affect this, including the person’s attitude to their diagnosis and their physical health. Other factors include the relationships they have with friends and family, the treatment and support they get, and their surroundings.
It’s not just about losing your memory
Dementia often starts by affecting the short-term memory. However, other symptoms may be prevalent too, such as:
- difficulties concentrating
- problems planning and thinking things through
- struggling with familiar daily tasks, like following a recipe or using a bank card
- issues with language and communication, for example trouble remembering the right word or keeping up with a conversation
- problems judging distances (even though eyesight is fine)
- mood changes and difficulties controlling emotions. For example, someone might get unusually sad, frightened, angry, easily upset, or lose their self-confidence and become withdrawn.
People can still live well with dementia
Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. However, there is existing support and treatments that can help people lead active and purposeful lives. Examples of things that can help with symptoms of dementia:
- cognitive stimulation, which might involve doing word puzzles or discussing current affairs
- life story work, sharing memories and experiences with a carer or nurse to create a ‘life story book’
- keeping as active as possible – physically, mentally and socially – which can boost memory and self esteem, and help avoid depression.
There is a lot of existing support for people and families affected by dementia:
- Alzheimer’s Society provide a National Dementia Helpline – on 0300 222 11 22 if you’d like to talk to someone for information, support or advice.
- Or sign up to Talking Point, their online community for anyone affected by dementia. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/talking-point-our-online-community) .
- Dementia UK provide an Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (or email firstname.lastname@example.org) for anyone with a question or concern about dementia.