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Dementia Action Week is 17 – 23 May 2021. Join us in raising awareness about dementia, the symptoms, the treatments and how we can support you and your loved one throughout the entire process.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. It covers a wide range of medical conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Parkinson’s, Huntington’s
  • Mixed dementia – dementia from more than one cause

Symptoms of dementia

Symptoms of dementia vary greatly but can include problems with:

  • Memory loss
  • Thinking speed
  • Mental sharpness and quickness
  • Language, such as misusing words or trouble speaking
  • Understanding
  • Judgement
  • Mood
  • Movement
  • Difficulties doing daily activities such as meal prep, paying bills or remembering appointments

How to reduce your risk of dementia?

  • Be physically active
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Exercise your mind

How to get a dementia diagnosis?

Although there is currently no cure for dementia, an early diagnosis can slow down its progress in some cases. Additionally, a diagnosis allows you to get the proper treatment and support and prepare for the future.

Initially, the GP will ask you about your symptoms and other aspects of your health, including how easy you find everyday activities such as personal care, cooking and paying bills. To rule out other causes of memory problems, such as anxiety and depression, the GP will do a physical examination and may organise tests such as a blood and urine test. The GP will also request memory and cognitive tests.

We do recommend that you bring someone along with you to the appointment who knows you well so that they can describe any noticed changes or problems. They can also remember the GP’s information and advice if this might be a problem for you.

If the GP has been able to rule out other causes for your symptoms, they will refer you to a healthcare professional who specialises in diagnosing dementia.

It is vital to make good use of your time with the specialist – ask questions and take notes, and ensure that you can return if you have further questions.

The specialist may organise more tests such as a brain scan or more detailed memory tests. These assessments successfully diagnose the majority of dementia cases. However, if the specialist is still not sure, more complex tests will be required.

 What support is out there following a dementia diagnosis?

 Following a diagnosis, you should have a care plan that includes:

  • How you can keep doing things that are important to you for as long as possible.
  • Information about how to access available services.
  • Any health conditions you have that need regular monitoring.
  • The name of a health or social care person who will coordinate the different kinds of support you may need.

A specialist should review your care plan at least once a year.

The care options that are available to you:

  1. Living in your own home
    1. Being in familiar surroundings can help people cope better with their condition. With adequate support, many people with mild-to-moderate dementia can live safely in their own home.
  2. Moving into a care home
    1. Before moving into a care home, your local council will have to carry out two assessments. Firstly, another needs assessment to confirm the need to go into a care home. Secondly, a financial review to decide how much the person will have to pay towards their care home fees.
  3. Admiral nurses
    1. Admiral nurses are experts in dementia care and work in the community, care homes, hospitals and hospices. They provide practical, clinical, and emotional support to families living with dementia.

Charities for people with dementia

  • Q1 Foundation
  • Alzheimer’s Society
  • National Dementia Helpline – 0300 222 11 22
  • Dementia UK
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK – Charity Infoline: 0300 111 5 111
  • Age UK – Free national helpline: 0800 055 6112
  • The Carers Trust
  • Carers UK
  • Online forums – Carers UK forum or Talking Point

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/about/?tabname=about-dementia

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/diagnosis/

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/help-and-support/

Alzheimer’s Society: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/how-reduce-your-risk-dementia