Dementia: facts and myths

This year’s Dementia Action Week (17-23 May 2021) focuses on calling on the government to provide quality social care which is free and easy to access no matter where you live.

But when it comes to Dementia and Alzheimer’s do you know the difference? Would you know what the symptoms are? And whom is more likely to get dementia? Below are some things you should know about dementia.

Dementia is not a disease. It is a collection of symptoms that can lead to different types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

In Alzheimer’s, the nerve cells that make up the brain lose their connection to one another. Eventually these nerve cells die and brain tissue is lost. People with Alzheimer’s also have less of some of the ‘chemical messengers’ that help to send signals between cells. It is a progressive disease, meaning that gradually over time, more parts of the brain are damaged, leading to more symptoms developing, those symptoms becoming worse. More than 520, 000 people in the UK have dementia cause by Alzheimer’s disease which is set to rise.

The following video explains Alzheimer’s in more detail

The second most common type of dementia is Vascular dementia, which affects around 150, 000 people in the UK. In vascular dementia, symptoms occur when the brain is damaged because of problems with the supply of blood to the brain, usually caused by a large stroke, or series of small strokes.

The following video explains Vascular dementia in more detail

Other types of dementia are mixed dementia, where both Alzheimer’s and vascular are thought to have caused dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies caused by abnormal structures in the brain, and Frontotemporal dementia including Pick’s Disease, when the front and side parts of the brain are damaged.

Dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process.

Over 40,000 people under the age of 65 have dementia in the UK. This is called ‘early-onset’ or ‘young-onset’ dementia. If you are worried about your memory, or someone else’s, you should make an appointment to see you GP.

Dementia is not just about losing your memory.

It does often start by affecting the short-term memory but 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 behavior.

Whilst there is no cure for dementia at present people can still live well with dementia. Scientists and researchers are working hard to find that cure, but there is support and treatments that can help with symptoms and managing everyday life. These include doing world puzzles or discussing current affairs to stimulate cognitive responses, sharing memories and experiences with a carer creating a ‘life story book’, and keeping as active as possible physically, socially and mentally to boost memory and self-esteem.

There is help and support out there for anyone struggling or caring for someone with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society has lots of information and advice for anyone dealing with dementia

Further links and local support:

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