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Dementia - a Growing Problem

                                                 January 2009

DEMENTIA – A GROWING PROBLEM

 

DementiaIt seems more and more of us know someone who has been diagnosed with “dementia”. Until you learn more about it, it is easy to assume it is just a natural process of people becoming a bit confused and forgetful as they get older. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dementia is caused when the brain is affected by a specific disease or condition. This can be a stroke when the blood supply to the brain has been restricted’ or Alzheimer’s disease which is a common cause of dementia. There are other causes such as the development of tiny lewy bodies inside the nerve cells that leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.

Whatever the cause, dementia causes life changing problems. These include loss of memory, not just forgetting people’s names and places, but perhaps where you have been or even your way home. It can make you very muddled in certain areas of life.

Dementia can also make it difficult to communicate and can affect your ability to talk and to read and write coherently. It can also cause mood changes. People are usually aware they have dementia and may feel terrified at their loss of control.

Because we are all different dementia can strike in different ways, and that can help to cause confusion about the condition, but generally, whatever the cause, dementia is progressive. This means it will steadily get worse.

In the later stages of dementia, the person affected will have problems carrying out everyday tasks, and will become increasingly dependent on other people.

Dementia is a growing problem in the UK. It mainly affects older people although young people can suffer from dementia. Currently around three quarters of a million people in Britain are dementia sufferers and it affects both men and women.

Dementia isn’t straight forward to diagnose. Becoming forgetful doesn’t necessarily mean you have dementia as some of us can experience memory loss from other causes; stress, overwork, depression and some effects of ageing. So forgetting the name of someone you recently met isn’t necessarily an indication of the start of dementia.

However, if you believe you really are beginning to suffer from a significant memory loss or confusion, it is vital you see your doctor who will carry out a number of tests designed to check your memory and ability to complete various tasks.

Some people may be diagnosed as suffering from MCI, or mild cognitive impairment, rather than dementia. This could indicate an increased risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease and your doctor will advise you.

Once developed, there is no cure for most forms of dementia but there are drugs available that can help to alleviate some of the symptoms.

The good news is that today there are a number of bodies to help people with dementia, and equally important, to help people caring for those suffering from dementia. The strain of seeing, and coping, day after day, with a loved one suffering from increasing levels of dementia is enormous.

SUPPORT

Ask your doctor or health professionals, or search through the internet, and you will find support bodies in your area. Sites that might help include www.fordementia.org.uk  This site includes information on the Uniting Carers for Dementia group. To find out more about this supportive body, you can email carers@fordementia.org.uk

There is also a group called Admiral Nursing Direct which offers a telephone information and support line for family carers and people with dementia. The number is 0845 257 9406.

There is also the Alzheimer’s Society whch offers a host of information on dementia; visit them on  www.alzheimers.org.uk or you can call:

England and Wales: 0845 300 0336
Northern Ireland: 028 9066 4100

 



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