Dementia is set to become the UK’s biggest killer by 2025 and will affect us all. It’s important to understand more about the disease and what can be done to deal with it. 

Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (CLCH) staff are out and about during dementia awareness week (15-21 May) providing more information and advice about the disease. Like-minded colleagues from Merton Council, St George’s Hospital and the local Dementia Action Alliance are supporting them.

Six things you need to know about dementia, courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Society:

1. Dementia is not part of the ageing process.

We all forget a name or a face sometimes, especially as we get older. But dementia is something different. Memory problems are one of a number of symptoms that people with dementia may experience. Others include difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour.

2. Dementia does not just affect older people.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, 40,000 of them are under 65. The total number will rise to over 1 million people with dementia by 2025. 

225,000 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.

3. People from ethnic minority groups are more likely to get dementia and less likely to receive diagnosis and support.

In 2011, there were 25,000 people with dementia from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in England and Wales. This is expected to double by 2026 and rise to over 172,000 by 2051 – a seven-fold increase in just 40 years, compared to a two-fold increase for the wider UK population in the same period. 

4. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.

Dementia causes nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain. There are lots of other causes and no two types of dementia are the same. 

In different types of dementia there is damage to different parts of the brain. Other types of dementia include:
•    vascular dementia (caused by problems with blood supply to the brain)
•    mixed dementia (usually Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia)
•    dementia with Lewy bodies
•    frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease). 

5. Dementia is not just about losing your memory.

Someone with dementia might repeat themselves and have problems recalling things that happened recently. But dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, understand things, feel and behave. Symptoms of dementia gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies from person to person – and some people stay independent for years.

6. People can still live well with dementia.

Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. Until that day comes, support and treatments are available that can help with symptoms and managing daily life. These can allow people with dementia to lead active, purposeful lives and carry on doing the things that matter to them most.

More information from the Alzheimer's Society:

Article supplied by Peter Sas