The number of people worldwide living with dementia is currently estimated, by the World Health Organization (WHO), to be about 36 million. By 2050 this number will most likely have tripled, making the number of people with dementia slightly smaller than the current population of Mexico. Quite a scary prospect.
Alzheimer’s Research UK believe that 25 million of the UK population have a close friend or family member with dementia. That’s about three times the population of London. As you can see, when it comes to dementia, we’re talking huge numbers.
The word dementia is used to describe a set of symptoms, including memory loss, mood changes and problems with communication and reasoning. Dementia often gets confused with the natural ageing process. However, it’s actually caused by diseases of your brain, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.
If you know someone with dementia or if you have the condition yourself it’s a good idea to know what support there is available to you. Here’s a round-up of some of the services and support you may find useful. Some are UK based but on the internet as well to provide general information.
Although there’s no cure for dementia, it’s important to find out if there are any medicines that can help with your symptoms or slow down the progression of dementia. If Alzheimer’s disease is causing your dementia, your doctor will be able to give you advice about which medicines may be suitable for you. This will most likely depend on how severe your dementia is and if your Alzheimer’s is mild or moderate. Aricept is one medication that is used in the US. Memantine is another one used and this is for moderate to severe stages.
If you have mild to moderate dementia, it may be helpful to take part in talking therapies, also known as cognitive stimulation therapy. These therapies are thought to maintain mental functioning as well as be fun to participate in. You may also find that you benefit from the social aspects of being in a group. Bupa’s Talking Toolkit contains advice and tips from dementia care experts about how to communicate effectively with a friend or relative if they have dementia.
Admiral Nurses are mental health nurses who specialise in dementia. They try to improve quality of life by working with both carers and people with dementia right from the point of diagnosis and throughout your journey. They can help with advice and information as well as assess your needs and help you express any views or wishes.
Note: This is a UK term and in the US there are psychiatric nurses, social workers and patient advocates.
Local support services
Local support groups that are run by volunteers can be extremely useful if you have dementia or look after someone with dementia. Your local day centre may provide care and activities. Social services can also provide help with making adaptations to your home as well as meals-on-wheels, respite care and nursing care. There are also meetup groups you can find.
Social media and the internet are great sources of support for people with dementia. Many dementia and care organisations use social media to communicate. You may find information on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As well as information, it may also give you an opportunity to join in discussions about dementia and receive latest snippets of news. Remember though, if you’re using the internet make sure the health information is trustworthy by looking for The Information Standard quality mark.
There are a number of charities, based in the UK, that can support you and offer advice. The Alzheimer’s Society have a website which includes a database of the help that is close to where you live and forums so you can chat with other people in similar positions. If you care for someone with dementia, the Carers Trust website can help with advice about coping and things you may be entitled to, such as benefits.
Your doctor is the best place to start if you want to find out if there are any available support services in your local area.
Bio: Iain Aitchison is a psychology and health studies graduate. His main writing interests lie in the field of mental health care. He is planning on undertaking postgraduate studies in health psychology.