This year, Dementia Action Week is 17-23 May which is being 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.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging.

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How common is dementia?

Of those at least 65 years of age, there were an estimated 5 million adults with dementia in 2014 in the UK which is projected to be nearly 14 million by 2060.

What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?

Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Communication
  • Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving.
  • Change in visual perception (not including typical age-related changes in vision)

Signs that may point to dementia include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighbourhood.
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects.
  • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
  • Forgetting old memories
  • Not being able to complete tasks independently.

What to do if a loved one who thinks they may have dementia?

  • Discuss with loved one. Talk about seeing a medical professional.
  • Talk about the issue of driving and always carrying an ID.
  • Ask for a medical assessment from a health provider that you are comfortable with.
  • Have a family meeting where you can start planning, researching, and support each other.

What are the most common types of dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease.

This is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases. It is caused by specific changes in the brain. The trademark symptom is trouble remembering recent events, such as a conversation that occurred minutes or hours ago, while difficulty remembering more distant memories occurs later in the disease. Other concerns like difficulty with walking or talking or personality changes also come later. Family history is the most important risk factor. Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease increases the risk of developing it by 10 to 30 percent.

Vascular dementia.

About 10 percent of dementia cases are linked to strokes or other issues with blood flow to the brain. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also risk factors. Symptoms vary depending on the area and size of the brain impacted. The disease progresses in a step-wise fashion, meaning symptoms will suddenly get worse as the individual gets more strokes or mini-strokes

Lewy body dementia.

In addition to more typical symptoms like memory loss, people with this form of dementia may have movement or balance problems like stiffness or trembling. Many people also experience changes in alertness including daytime sleepiness, confusion or staring spells. They may also have trouble sleeping at night or may experience visual hallucinations (seeing people, objects or shapes that are not actually there).

Frontotemporal dementia.

This type of dementia most often leads to changes in personality and behaviour because of the part of the brain it affects. People with this condition may embarrass themselves or behave inappropriately. For instance, a previously cautious person may make offensive comments and neglect responsibilities at home or work. There may also be problems with language skills like speaking or understanding.

Mixed dementia.

Sometimes more than one type of dementia is present in the brain at the same time, especially in people aged 80 and older. For example, a person may have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. It is not always obvious that a person has mixed dementia since the symptoms of one type of dementia may be most prominent or may overlap with symptoms of another type. Disease progression may be faster than with one kind of dementia.

Reversible causes.

People who have dementia may have a reversible underlying cause such as side effect of medication, increased pressure in the brain, vitamin deficiency, and thyroid hormone imbalance. Medical providers should screen for reversible causes in patients who are concerning for dementia.

This week we will be raising awareness of Dementia on our social media platforms