Alzheimer's Awareness Week 6th - 12th July 2012
Archived news: published on Monday 09 Jul 2012 by Fife Council
What is dementia?
Dementia is the progressive loss of the powers of the brain. There are many kinds of dementia but the most common is Alzheimer's disease. It is also possible to have more than one type of dementia; for example Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
In Scotland, between 58,000 and 65,000 people have dementia. It is most common in older people but can affect people in their 40s or 50s or even younger.
What causes dementia?
It is not known yet exactly what causes dementia. Medical researchers all over the world are working to find causes and develop treatments.
Alzheimer's disease damages individual brain cells one by one, so that the brain can't work as well as it used to. In the vascular dementias, there are problems with the blood supply to brain cells. For example, some people have tiny strokes (or infarcts) which damage small areas of the brain.
What are the symptoms?
Every person with dementia is different. How their illness affects them depends on which areas of their brain are most damaged.
One of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss. It is important to remember that everyone forgets things sometimes. Most people's memory gets worse as they get older. When someone has dementia, they may forget the names of family members, not just of strangers.
People with dementia may lose their sense of time, losing awareness of which day it is or of the time of day. They may lose track of where they are, and get lost even in a familiar place. They may fail to recognise people they know well. People with dementia may often be confused and can also cause personality and behaviour changes. These changes can be particularly distressing to relatives and friends as they lose the person they knew.
What should I do if I'm worried?
It is very important not to jump to conclusions. Confusion or forgetfulness does not mean someone has dementia; nor is dementia an inevitable part of growing older. Many other conditions, such as infections, depression or the side effects of medicines can cause similar problems. If you are concerned or worried, see your doctor.
If your doctor finds no reason for the symptoms, he/she may want to refer you or your relative to see a hospital specialist. The specialist can do further tests. Dementia can only be diagnosed by ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms. This is why a full medical assessment is important.
The earlier a person gets a diagnosis of dementia, the sooner he/she can start to come to terms, make plans for the future, and access services that can help.
The good news is that treatments are available which may help some people with the symptoms of some forms of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease, and research is progressing all the time.
What can I do?
If you or someone you know has dementia, it may be hard to come to terms with the illness. Talk to someone about how you feel and what you can do. You can call the 24 hour Dementia Helpline free on 0808 808 3000 at any time.
• Share your feelings with other members of the family or friends. Give them this leaflet and other information
• Tell the doctor about any changes
• Find out what services are available. Try to get as much help as you can
• Find out about benefits and claim them.
• Talk to other people with dementia or families and carers who are facing similar problems
• Try to make life as full and enjoyable as possible. Both people with dementia and carers should try to get out and about and keep in touch with friends
• Don't just put up with new difficulties. Ask for information, help and advice to cope with problems.
Where can I find out more?
Alzheimer Scotland exists to help people with dementia and their carers. They provide information, support and a network of services and carers' support groups around Scotland, including Fife, Angus, Dundee, Edinburgh, Perth & Kinross and Glasgow City.
For more information contactVal Sinclair, Employee Health & Attendance Adviser (Resourcing & Wellbeing)
Tel: 08451 55 55 55 + Ext 44 42 84 Contact Val Sinclair online
By Post: Fife Council, Fife House, North Street, Glenrothes, KY7 5LT