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May 19th, 2017

This week is Dementia Awareness Week, run by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Its aim is clear: to raise awareness of the condition which is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer.  The Alzheimer’s Society is asking everyone to unite in the battle against this condition, which affects not just the person living with it but their friends and families.

At DoCare, we have many clients who live with dementia, and we do all we can to support them and their loved ones, including giving our staff specialist training so they can provide the very best level of service.

And as this is national awareness week, here are a few facts about dementia that you may not have known, which we gleaned from the Alzheimer’s Society:

  1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.

We all forget a name or a face sometimes. Especially as we get older. But dementia is something different. Memory problems are one of a number of symptoms that people with dementia may experience. Others include difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and it doesn’t just affect older people. More than 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia. This is called early-onset or young-onset dementia.

If you’re worried about your memory, or about someone else, the first thing to do is make an appointment with the GP. We know it can feel daunting, but the quicker you talk to your GP, the sooner you can get the information, advice and support you need.

 

  1. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease cause nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.

There are lots of other causes and no two types of dementia are the same. In different types of dementia there is damage to different parts of the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease tends to start slowly and progress gradually. Vascular dementia after a stroke often progresses in a ‘stepped’ way. This means that symptoms are stable for a while and then suddenly get worse.

 

  1. It’s not just about losing your memory

When most people hear the word dementia, they think of memory loss. And it does often start by affecting the short-term memory. Someone with dementia might repeat themselves and have problems recalling things that happened recently. But dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave.

Other common symptoms include:

  • 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.

Symptoms of dementia gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies from person to person – and some people stay independent for years.

 

  1. People can still live well with dementia

Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. Until that day comes, support and treatments are available that can help with symptoms and managing daily life. These can allow people with dementia to lead active, purposeful lives and carry on doing the things that matter to them most.

There are drugs available that may help with some types of dementia and stop symptoms progressing for a while. This is one reason why it’s important to go to the GP as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.

Other things that can help with symptoms of dementia include:

  • 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.

Researchers are working with people with dementia and their families to look into the causes of dementia.

They’re looking at how it might be prevented and diagnosed earlier, and how to improve quality of life for people living with the condition. The more we understand, the more we can do to help people stay independent and live the life they want for as long as possible.

Call the Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22 if you’d like to talk to someone for information, support or advice.

In the meantime, at DoCare we are joining in national Cupcake Day on June 15, when we will be making and selling cupcakes, all to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. Do pop into our head office in Stroud and support us.

This blog was written by Una Mills, DoCare Director. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.