Dementia Action Week: learn more about dementia and what you can do to help yourselves or others
15 May 23
This week is Dementia Action Week. It is an annual awareness campaign run by the Alzheimer’s Society and this year’s theme is dementia diagnosis.
We have some advice below which explains:
- what dementia is
- what the symptoms of dementia are
- who you should call if you suspect someone is displaying signs of dementia
- how to support someone with dementia
What is dementia?
Dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing. It occurs when the brain is affected by a disease. People with dementia experience a group of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulties with thinking, concentration, problem solving or language, and often changes in mood, emotion, perception or behaviour. These changes are usually small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become bad enough to affect daily life. Dementia affects everyone differently and it is progressive, which means that symptoms will get worse over time. However, many people living with dementia lead active and fulfilling lives for many years.
There are more than 100 known types of dementia. The most common are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Various factors increase the risk of someone developing dementia. Ageing, genes, health and lifestyle (for example, exercise, diet or smoking) all play a part. Most people with dementia are over 65 years of age, but dementia can also affect younger people.
What are the symptoms?
Everyone experiences dementia in their own way and different types of dementia can affect people differently. However, some of the common symptoms are listed below.
Memory loss. For example, problems recalling things that happened recently (despite easily remember things from a long time ago) or repeating things in conversation, such as asking the same question over and over.
Difficulty thinking things through and planning. For example, problems concentrating, following a series of steps, grasping new ideas or solving problems. Familiar daily tasks may also prove difficult, such as following a recipe or managing finances.
Problems with language. This may include difficulty finding the right word or struggling to follow a conversation or misinterpreting things..
Confusion relating to time or place. For example, losing track of what time, date or season it is or getting lost and not knowing where you are, even in a familiar place.
Visual perceptual difficulties may arise. This can create issues such as judging distances (for example, on stairs) or misinterpreting patterns or reflections in mirrors.
Who should you call if you suspect dementia?
If you're worried about your own memory, or think you may have dementia, it's a good idea to see a GP. If you're worried about someone else's memory problems, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest that you go with them.
Dementia can be difficult to diagnose, especially if your symptoms are mild. If the GP has been able to rule out other causes for your symptoms, they'll refer you to a healthcare professional who specialises in diagnosing dementia.
Supporting someone with dementia
Every situation is different, and how you care for the person will depend on what they need and what you are able to offer. When someone close to you is diagnosed with dementia, it can bring lots of different emotions. It might make you feel sad, fearful, angry or helpless. Or you may feel some relief that you now have an explanation for the person’s symptoms. All of these feelings are natural. You are not alone. Support is available and there are things you can do to help you cope. Support from friends and family can make a huge difference in helping the person live well with their condition.
Caring for someone with dementia can be a rewarding experience but also very challenging.
Organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society are a great source of advice and support
The NHS also has information and advice available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/help-and-support/