Dementia Awareness Week 2017

Hello everyone,

I hope you were able to enjoy the sunshine last week, fingers crossed it is not over for the year! For this blog I wanted to write about Dementia because it is Dementia Awareness Week this week (14th– 20th May). Also, despite the recent surge of interest in dementia, awareness of what it is and how it affects people remains low and many families feel as though they are facing the disease and its affects alone.

In this post, I thought I would give you a bit of information about dementia and point to some of the work that is currently being undertaken here at Swansea. It is one of the most prolific illnesses afflicting us in the 21st century and it is fast over-taking cancer as being the biggest killer.

What is dementia?

The word ‘dementia’ was first coined by Dr. Aloysius “Alois” Alzheimer at the turn of the 20th century. Dr Alzheimer was a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist and he used the term dementia to describe a set of symptoms that commonly include memory loss and issues with language, problem-solving or thinking. These symptoms are often small in the beginning, but an individual with dementia experiences these issues to a severe degree, to the point where they begin to affect their daily lives. It is also common for people to experience the following symptoms:

  • Short-term memory loss, a common example is where an individual would remember past events much more easily than recent ones, or they are finding it increasingly difficult to follow conversations or TV programmes.
  • Problems with thinking processes or reasoning.
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or sometimes anger and frustration about other symptoms.
  • Confusion, even when an individual is in a familiar environment.

Dementia arises when the brain becomes damaged. This damage can be due to diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, or as a consequence of strokes or even genetics. Alzheimer’s disease tends to be the most common cause of dementia, but as mentioned previously it is not the only one. Vascular dementia appears to be the second most common cause of dementia. This can be a consequence of things like heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. These ailments can increase one’s chances of developing vascular dementia which is why it is important that these conditions are identified and treated as early as possible.

What do I do if I think someone may have dementia?

In a recent blog post by the OU they suggest the following steps you may want to take to get help if you are worried about someone’s memory.

Step 1- Plan a conversation in a familiar, non-threatening environment.

Step 2 –Explain why talking about it is important. Explain that you are worried because you care.

Step 3- Use examples to make things clearer. It’s important to be careful not to create a sense of ‘blame’. For example, instead of telling someone they can’t make a cup of tea you could suggest they seem to find it difficult to make tea.

Step 4- Have an open conversation where you are honest and direct. Ask how they are feeling about their memory.

I am aware that Swansea University are undertaken a lot of academic work into dementia. Whether it is increasing diagnosis, identifying lifestyle factors that can mitigate the onset of dementia, enabling individuals suffering with dementia to live well and happy for as long as possible, Swansea University is at the forefront and collaborating with other Universities or agencies to help further dementia awareness and develop practical responses to dementia. If you are interested in more details I would recommend contacting the relevant departments including the Centre for Innovative Ageing, Social Policy Department, Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Nursing.

Although this is a short post I hope it has given you a bit of information about Dementia. IF you would like some more information I have included links to various websites below:

Alzheimers.org- https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20167/dementia_awareness_week

Awareness Days- https://www.awarenessdays.com/uk/awareness-days-calendar/dementia-awareness-week-2017/

NHS website- http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dementia-guide/Pages/about-dementia.aspx

Dementia UK- https://www.dementiauk.org/understanding-dementia/about-dementia/

Also if you want to get more involved in created dementia friendly communities, why not consider becoming a dementia friend. I have included the link to Dementia Friends .org where you can sign up below:

https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register-digital-friend

Dementia is a really pervasive issue and has affected many people, so becoming more aware of dementia and getting involved can not only help people improve the future of dementia but can make families and sufferers not feel so isolated. Quite often dementia feels like a death sentence and it is almost a taboo subject but we need to talk about it more (the same can be said for mental health issues) to take away some of the fear and stigma surrounding dementia. The more we know, the more we understand and can relate and help those who are suffering from dementia.

I hope you have found this informative and would recommend becoming familiar with the research and work being undertaken by Swansea University because they are extremely interesting and engaging.

Thanks for reading!

Joanna Wolton

Joanna Wolton

I am a PhD student in the Centre for Innovative Ageing within the College of Human and Health Sciences. I hope this blog is insightful and gives you some tips and information about what it is like to be a student living in Swansea.

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