Don’t fear the D word 

Dementia is a word that strikes terror in many.  And no wonder: newspapers regularly feature headlines that sensationalize the ‘misery’ of dementia ‘sufferers’.   Yet there is a growing number of people with dementia who are active as campaigners, and they reject such language as stigmatizing.  Instead, they call themselves people who are living with dementia.  In one survey more than two thirds said they were living well with dementia.

Does the way we talk about dementia matter?  Yes.  A recent survey of the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society asked: “if you had a physical symptom, would you see a doctor right away?”  60 per cent of the sample said they would.  However, asked whether they would see a doctor right away for a non-physical symptom, such as a memory problem, only 2 per cent said yes.  For many people, fear of discovering that they have dementia will keep them from talking to their GP.

It’s beneficial for people who are worried about their thinking to get it checked out as soon as possible.  They may learn that their symptoms aren’t caused by dementia.  Did you know that memory loss, the symptom most associated with dementia, can also be caused by other things such as stress, depression, infections, nutritional deficiencies and even lack of sleep?  Moreover, with around 100 types of dementia that can affect the brain in different ways, memory loss is not necessary the first sign.  The range of early dementia symptoms includes reading problems, difficulty judging distance, less fluency when speaking, and even becoming less kind and caring.  Because of this a diagnosis can take time to reach: other possible causes need to be ruled out.

Getting a diagnosis is worthwhile, as without it you won’t be able to get support to live well with dementia.  In Scotland everyone who receives a diagnosis is entitled to personalized support which, if their dementia is in its early stages, will be from a Dementia Link Worker.  Link Workers can help someone understand and adjust to their diagnosis, to plan for the future, and to get the support they need to live well with dementia.

That support can come from a range of sources, including other people with dementia, and opportunities to enjoy supported activities, from singing to sport.  Did you know that many of the things that help people to live well with dementia are the same as those that make it less likely someone will get dementia in the first place?  Physical exercise, eating well, staying within safe alcohol guidelines, stopping smoking, socialising and challenging the brain can all play a part.

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project offers free guide booklets on a wide range of dementia related topics.  You can request these from the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222.

Let’s talk about reducing your risk of dementia

 

29th May – 4th June is Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland. John Watson, Deputy Chief Executive at ASH Scotland talks about risk reduction and how you can help inform future campaigns in his guest blog.


Let’s talk about dementia.

In particular let’s talk about dementia not as a dark cloud hanging over the future, but as an illness like any other, an illness that is not an inevitable part of ageing but an issue over which we can start to take some control.

There are around 90,000 people in Scotland living with dementia, and that number is predicted to double within the next 25 years.

Even a small reduction in these numbers, or a delay in the onset of dementia, would mean thousands of people, and their families, avoid a condition which can be challenging and distressing for all concerned.

That reduction could be achieved if more people were aware that dementia is a disease, not an inevitable part of ageing, and that by changing various lifestyle factors you can influence your chance of developing dementia.

You may already be taking action to reduce your risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. It’s time to take the same approach with dementia. The science of dementia prevention is not so well established, but it may be that taking action now can reduce your dementia risk by a third.

This is why a number of voluntary organisations, including ASH Scotland and Age Scotland, are coming together under the Dementia DEFENCE banner. We aim to highlight that what you smoke, eat or drink, how physically and socially active you are, and generally the extent to which you live well and healthily can significantly impact your risk of developing dementia. Crucially how you live now affects your later health, so don’t put this off until later.

Man_Garden_006To help inform and develop our campaign we are looking for groups of adults to assist us in exploring how we can construct dementia prevention campaigns that will be effective in reaching communities, to raise awareness and encourage action in response.

We are looking to arrange discussions with a wide range of groups of adults, ideally around the 50s and 60s age range. We can tell you about the lifestyle changes that can reduce your dementia risk, but we also want to hear from you about your views on dementia, what would inspire you to take action to reduce your dementia risk and what we can do to help and encourage you.

As well as our information and our thanks we can provide some refreshments for the meeting. It will just take an hour of your time.

Interested? Contact Mike Andrews at ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or at mandrews@ashscotland.org.uk