An estimated four million people are affected by long-term medical conditions in the UK, a figure that is high because of the country’s ageing population. Dementia is one such condition, with around 850,000 people affected.
This is a figure that is expected to rise according to the Alzheimer’s Society, who say that more than one million people will suffer from dementia by 2025. The same charity believe that this will rise further, to over two million, by 2051.
Other interesting UK statistics include:
- 225,000 people will develop dementia this year. That’s one person every three minutes.
- 38% of the population know a family member of close friend who has dementia.
- One in three people born this year will develop dementia in their lifetime.
- Over 40,000 people aged 65 and under have the condition.
- One in 14 people over 65 have dementia.
- One in six people aged 80 are affected.
- 70% of people in care homes suffer from the condition.
Today’s article will explain what dementia is, including the different types, before focusing on the symptoms, treatments and how to live with the condition.
What is Dementia?
Rather than being a condition in and of itself, dementia is a word that refers to a set of symptoms relating to someone’s memory, language and understanding. Alzheimer’s Research UK define the condition as something which is caused by lots of different diseases:
The word ‘dementia’ is just an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by these diseases such as memory loss, confusion and personality change.”
It is important to note that slight impairments in these areas are a completely normal part of the ageing process, known as ‘age-related cognitive decline’. Dementia is far more severe, affecting people’s day to day lives, and is not considered to be a normal part of ageing, despite its prevalence.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most well-known and most common type of dementia, accounting for 62% of cases. What most people may not know, is that there are other types of dementia out there as well. These include:
- Vascular Dementia – This affects 17% of those diagnosed – around 150,000 people. According to the NHS, vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies – This accounts for between 10-15% of cases. This type of dementia shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and is often mistaken for the former.
- Frontotemporal dementia – This term covers a wide range of conditions, and is sometimes called Pick’s disease or frontal lobe dementia. This type of dementia occurs when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die – causing the pathways that connect the lobes to change.
- Young-onset dementia – People with dementia, whose symptoms began before they were 65 are often said to have young-onset dementia. A wider array of diseases can cause young-onset dementia and a younger person is more likely to have a rarer form of the condition.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – This type is caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion infecting the brain.
Varying types of dementia can affect people differently. This section of our article today will list the symptoms associated with the three most common types of dementia.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease progress slowly over several years, and effects people at different speeds. Symptoms include:
- Memory problems – Forgetting about conversations, place names and eventually the names of people that you know.
- Poor decision making – You may begin showing signs of poor judgement or difficulty when trying to make decisions.
- Repetitious – You may begin repeating yourself, asking the same question several times.
- Mood swings – You may become depressed, anxious, frustrated or agitated.
- Delusions and hallucinations.
All of these symptoms become worse over time, causing both the affected and their loved ones to become distressed and upset. In the later stages of the condition, it may be that the person affected has difficulty eating, lose their voice and suffer from incontinence.
The symptoms of vascular dementia can come on suddenly or gradually, becoming worse as time progresses. Symptoms include:
- Slowness of thought.
- Behavioral and personality changes which become worse over time.
- Difficulty concentrating and planning.
- Some issues with memory and language – becoming increasingly worse as the condition progresses.
- General difficulty with daily activities.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
The symptoms of this form of dementia cause problems with your mental abilities and also trigger a number of other difficulties, including:
- Thinking speed.
Other symptoms include:
- Swings between alertness and confusion or happiness.
- Slow movement and stiff limbs.
- Loss of balance.
- Disturbed sleep.
Doctors can diagnose this condition with simple tests. They may ask general questions about the patient’s age, the date and time, where they are and so on. Alternatively, they might administer word knowledge tests or give them a drawing task to complete.
Your doctor will also organise blood tests to rule out any other cause of memory loss. If the symptoms are mild, your doctor may struggle to diagnose you with dementia. Instead they will refer you to a specialist, such as:
- A psychiatrist with experience of treating dementia.
- An elderly care physician.
- A neurologist.
Most causes of dementia are incurable, but there are many ways to enable sufferers to lead comfortable lives. Drugs like donezepil, rivastigmine and galantamine can help improve the symptoms, and sometimes even slow their progression.
Away from medication, it is suggested that those with dementia should take part in cognitive stimulation therapy. This involves group activities and exercises which have been designed to improve your memory and language abilities, as well as your problem-solving skills.
You may also visit a trained professional who can help with cognitive rehabilitation. This involves you using the parts of your brain that are working to help the parts that aren’t working.
As you may suffer from memory loss as a dementia sufferer, it is important to reminiscence and look through your ‘life story’. This involves you looking at photographs, notes and keepsakes from your life. Evidence has shown that this can help to improve your mood and well-being – as well as helping you to remember certain parts of your life.
Living with Dementia
For those living with this condition, it is important to try and remain upbeat. This will involve having as much of a social life as possible by joining local groups and keeping close to your friends and family. It’s important to always remember that you’re not alone. Friends and family are here to help you.
People with the condition should continue to enjoy their hobbies and interests as far as possible. These activities may keep a person with dementia alert and stimulated, so that they maintain an interest in life.
The NHS have shared some tips which will help you to keep on top of things if you have dementia. Some examples include:
- Keep a diary and update it daily with important things that you want to remember.
- Keep your keys in an obvious place and never leave them elsewhere.
- Subscribe to a daily newspaper. This will include a date and can also help keep your cognitive functions working.
- Change your billing options to be direct debit. This way you won’t need to remember when all your bills need to be paid.
- Install safety devices, such as gas detectors and smoke alarms.
- Write reminders and place them around your home. Examples include a note on your door to remind you to take your keys.
How to Reduce the Risk of Dementia
The ageing process is the biggest risk factor when it comes to your chances of being diagnosed with dementia. Although this process cannot be changed, there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to help lower the risk.
Examples of the changes you can make include:
- Stop smoking – As a smoker, your arteries will narrow. This can lead to a rise in your blood pressure, which increases the risk of dementia.
- Lower your alcohol intake – Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your blood pressure, as well as your cholesterol levels.
- Switch to a healthy diet – You should ensure you’re eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet which includes fresh fruit and vegetables. You should also avoid salt as this increases your blood pressure.
- Start working out – Alongside a new diet, it is important that you get yourself into a work out routine. By working out you are making your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. Your blood pressure will be lower and your overall body condition will improve, which can reduce the risk of other medical conditions.
- Keep your weight down – By following the tips already shared in this article, you will be able to keep your weight at a healthy level. Obesity puts you at risk of several medical conditions.
- Keep your brain active – Several studies have shown that keeping your brain active can help reduce the risk of dementia. Activities would include playing video games, doing puzzles, playing cards or learning something new.
Dementia qualifies our customers for VAT Exemption when they order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. HMRC state that a product which has been “designed or adapted for a disability” qualifies for VAT exemption.
For a person to qualify they must meet certain criteria set by HMRC. These criteria state that the customer must have a long-term illness, a terminal illness or a disability in order to qualify.
An Alarm for Dementia Patients
A Personal Alarm can help protect people if they suffer from medical conditions such as dementia. With an alarm in the home, your loved one will be able to make a distress call should they require assistance, feel unwell or suffer a fall.
They do this by pressing the help button on their alarm’s base unit or on their MyAmie Pendant, which is worn around the wrist or neck. This sends an alert call through to our 24/7 Care Team, who will try to communicate with the alarm user before calling for help via family, friends and neighbours.
For more information on purchasing one of our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.