September is World Alzheimer’s Month
September 2018 marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Month. World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated on 21st September each year.
There are nearly 50 million people living with dementia worldwide; yet the stigmatisation and misinformation that surrounds dementia remains a problem that requires global action.
Dementia is a degenerative brain condition that affects people slowly robbing them of their memory, competency, comprehension and behavioural awareness.
There are over 100 forms of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease – a progressive illness that impairs memory and other mental functions that are serious enough to interfere with an individual’s daily life.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
We all forget a name or a face sometimes, but loss of memory is one of a number of symptoms that people with dementia may experience; others including difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour.
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. No two types of dementia are the same and in different types of dementia there is damage to different parts of the brain. Everyone experience of dementia is different and experiences are influences by factors, including the person’s attitude to their diagnosis and physical health; the relationships they have with friends and family, the treatment and support they get and their surroundings.
Some 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)
Dementia is not just about losing your memory
Although dementia often starts by affecting the short-term memory, several other signs and symptoms are noteworthy – a person with dementia might repeat themselves and have problems recalling things recent occurrences; but dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave. Symptoms of dementia gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies from person to person – and some people stay independent for years.
Other common symptoms include:
- difficulties concentrating, problem-solving and thinking things through
- struggling with familiar daily tasks (e.g. following a recipe or using a bank card)
- issues with language and communication (e.g. 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 (e.g. feeling unusually sad, frightened, angry, easily upset, or losing self-confidence and becoming withdrawn). Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. There are some medications that may help with some types of dementia and stop symptoms progressing for a while. Therefore it is important to go to the GP as soon as you suspect there is a problem.
People can still live well with dementia
Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. However, support and treatments are available that allow people with dementia to lead active, purposeful lives and carry on doing the things that matter to them most.
Treatments for dementia
There are some medications that may help with some types of dementia and stop symptoms progressing for a while. Therefore it is important to go to the GP as soon as you suspect there is 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) – this can boost memory and self- esteem and help avoid depression.
The Gibraltar Alzheimer’s and Dementia Society is fully committed to raising awareness and better understanding of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in Gibraltar.
For further information: https://www.facebook.com/gibraltaralzheimersanddementiasociety/