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Posted by: Caroline Hall, on 23/03/2015

Standing united to help raise awareness of dementia

This week is National Dementia Awareness Week, and here at Sussex Housing & Care, we aim to help raise awareness of dementia amongst all that are willing to listen.

If we can help to raise awareness of just five things that we should all know about dementia, and if those who read it can share with others, we hope we can make just a small difference:

1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

We all forget a name or 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. Over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia.

2. 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 many 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.

Other types of dementia include:

  • vascular dementia (caused by problems with blood supply to the brain)
  • mixed dementia (usually Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia)
  • dementia with Lewy bodies
  • frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease)

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.

3. Dementia is 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 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.

4. 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.

Treatments

There are drugs available that may help with some types of dementia and stop symptoms from 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.

5. There is support available for anyone affected by dementia

There are a number of charities able to provide expert information and support to anyone affected by dementia. These include the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The Alzheimer’s Society have a National Dementia Helpline which you can call on 0300 222 11 22 if you would like to talk to someone for information, support or advice.

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