September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge the dementia stigma.
Each year, more and more countries are participating in World Alzheimer’s Month events and awareness of dementia is growing, but there is always more to do.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a collective name for progressive brain syndromes that cause deterioration over time of a variety of different brain functions such as memory, thinking, recognition and language, planning and personality. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50-60% of cases of dementia. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia.
Most kinds of dementia have similar symptoms including:
- Loss of memory
- Problems with thinking, planning and language
- Failure to recognise people or objects
- Personality and mood changes
By 2050, the number of people living with dementia around the world will have almost trebled, making the disease one of the most significant health and social crises of the 21st century.
10 warning signs of dementia
- Memory loss
- Difficulty performing tasks
- Problems with language
- Disorientation to time and place
- Poor or decreased judgement
- Problems keeping track of things
- Misplacing things
- Changes in mood and behaviour
- Trouble with images and spatial relationships
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
Early diagnosis means I can live well for longer
As few as one in every ten individuals living with dementia in low and middle income countries receive a diagnosis. World Alzheimer’s Month is about remembering those affected by dementia, including many who may be worried about developing dementia themselves.
A diagnosis of dementia that is made early in the course of the condition enables people with dementia and their families to be better equipped to cope with the progression of the condition, and to have the opportunity to live more meaningful and productive lives. Individuals who are diagnosed early also have a unique opportunity to take part in dementia research, which may identify new treatments, help to find a cure or improve care.
If you are living with dementia:
Remember that you don’t have to be alone. It is possible to live better with dementia than the public perception of it by seeking support from your family and friends, health and social workers, from the Alzheimer association in your country and by joining Dementia Alliance International (DAI). You have a right to feel empowered, included and to be treated as an individual. To become a member of DAI, go to www.dementiaallianceinternational.org
If you are worried about developing dementia:
Speak to your doctor about any concerns. Alzheimer associations in many countries provide support with seeking a diagnosis and living with dementia, as well as information on risk reduction and help to find support groups. When people with dementia and their families are well supported, feelings of shock can be balanced by a sense of reassurance.
If you are a care partner:
Remember that caring for someone with dementia can be challenging. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to join the Alzheimer association or subscribe to DAI in your country to advocate for change. It is important to take care of your own physical and mental health needs. This will make a big difference to the wellbeing of yourself and the person you are caring for.
Support and information is available worldwide from Alzheimer associations in more than 80 countries. These associations exist to provide advice for carers and people with dementia. To find your national Alzheimer association visit www.alz.co.uk/associations