Dr Gail Steptoe-Warren - Head of the School of Psychology and Social Science
As a society, we are living longer. With this comes additional health issues. Whilst not everyone who gets older gets dementia, dementia is a growing concern and more likely to be seen in wealthier countries where people live longer. However, younger people are not exempt from being impacted by this disorder with Dementia UK reporting 42,000 people within the UK affected with dementia under the age of 65.
Dementia itself is quite a loose term that is used for progressive conditions that impact on the brain. Symptoms include: -
- Memory problems (misplacing things, forgetting names)
- Problems with concentration (ability to make decisions may be impacted)
- Communication (repeat themselves, difficulty finding words)
- Mood and behaviour (personality, mood and behaviour)
As we become more knowledgeable about dementia as a society, we may attribute certain behaviours, emotions, actions to dementia when in fact it is a part of the normal ageing process (e.g. may lose keys, forget an appointment, may forget what day it is – especially when retired from work and don’t have a schedule).
Whilst some of these may be attributable to dementia it is important these are checked by a medical professional.
There has been much debate over the causes of dementia and in older age it is not thought to be inherited and some lifestyle changes are suggested to ward off dementia. These include:
- Keeping your mind and body healthy
- Weight within healthy limits
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol limits to government guidelines
- Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol within accepted limits
- Staying physically and mentally active
Physical activities do not have to be beyond the limit of individual physical capabilities but may include gardening, short walks, household chores with mental stimulation including reading and puzzles.
We have seen during the current pandemic that residents in care homes have really struggled due to not seeing family and friends, and not having emotional and physical connections. With the easing of lockdown this will allow us to regain some normality to reconnect with loved ones. It is important to find what makes a person happy – this may be a memory, music, photos.
It is equally important to support carers of those with dementia. There is a lot of support out there. If you are in need of support, please contact.
Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053
The Carers Trust on 0300 772 9600
For more information on dementia please refer to www.alzheimers.org.uk