✦ ‘Never too early, never too late’
It might sound like the most obvious of statements but every problem needs a solution. Some problems are relatively easy to understand and action a solution to, while others can pose far bigger challenges and even remain unsolved. Dementia falls into the latter category and is why Dementia Action Week and World Alzheimer’s Month, which both take place every September, are such important occasions, highlighting ongoing efforts to gain a clearer understanding of the disease and a potential cure for it.
Dementia Action Week
The theme for this year’s Dementia Action Week, which takes place September 18-24, is ‘Act Now for a Dementia-Friendly Future’. The objectives of the campaign are to generate a greater understanding of dementia which can lead to less stigma and discrimination and ultimately fear, while providing support and highlighting the tireless work done by carers within the community.
The Port Macquarie electorate has nearly 2,500 people living with Dementia, which is the 2nd highest prevalence rate in state electorates of Australia. (source: Port Macquarie Dementia Friendly Community)
Useful tips to improve communication with those suffering from dementia
Before speaking, make sure you have their attention first. Try to be face to face with good eye contact where possible and stay still while you are talking.
Avoid background noise where possible, and reduce visual distractions (eg turn off the TV or radio)
Give us TIME to speak. Try not to finish our sentences. Just listen, and don’t let us feel embarrassed if we lose the thread of what we say. Resist the urge to finish our sentences.
Speak to us as an adult, don’t talk down to us. Please use clear and familiar words, in a relaxed tone of voice and with positive body language. Focus on one idea at a time
Speak positively, avoid arguments and confrontations. Try to give suggestions and not commands.
Try not to ask direct questions that rely on memory. If you need to ask a few questions, make them clear and concise. Take the time to wait for the answer.
It can be helpful to use orienting names whenever you can, such as “Your son James”
When all else fails – you can SMILE!
World Alzheimer’s Month
World Alzheimer’s Month runs for the entire month of September. Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia classified by German doctor Emil Kraepelin in 1910, is a neurodegenerative disease that commonly starts slowly before worsening at a progressive pace and is one of the conditions most broadly associated with dementia.
The most typical early symptom associated with Alzheimer’s is gradual memory loss, including a difficulty to remember even very recent events, people’s names, family members, places, etc. It can be heartbreaking to watch someone close to you suffer as they seemingly slowly drift away into an arena of complete uncertainty. As the condition develops, sufferers will usually encounter problems with communicating (especially with language), a sense of disorientation, shifting mood swings and a general notion of withdrawal from everyday life.
Despite being classified by Dr Kraepelin more than 100 years ago, the medical world has largely struggled to understand the cause of the disease and therefore, ultimately, to find a cure for it. Genetic risk factors are believed to be the most common cause, including high blood pressure, previous trauma to the head and diagnosis of severe depression. The disease has traditionally been associated as an age related one, with most sufferers typically being over the age of 65, although there have been many cases where it has affected people much younger; most recently a 19-year-old man was diagnosed with the condition in China, the youngest ever on record.
At least 55 million people are believed to be suffering from Alzheimer’s or similar dementia conditions worldwide, according to United Nations figures. A study by Alzheimer’s Disease Research states these figures will almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050, if breakthroughs are not discovered.
A healthy diet, regular physical exercise and frequent social engagements are acknowledged ways of reducing cognitive decline, while a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine professor C. Kathleen Dorey and a team of researchers stated that five key nutrients are often lacking in Alzheimer’s patients and therefore urge people to increase their intake (the five are lycopene, retinol, lutein, Zeaxanthin and Vitamin E).
However, despite these seemingly preventative measures, currently there is no known official cure for the disease. Naturally, big pharma is in a race to find a cure, or at least a way to slow or control the disease to an extent. Most recently, Bloomberg reported the pharmaceutical company Tiziana Life Sciences’s drug for Alzheimer's was approved by the FDA for a Phase 2 trial, while Quest Diagnostics recently released home blood test kits to help detect the disease early, something Scottish Brain Sciences is also exploring in collaboration with pharma giants Roche Diagnostics. Every other leading pharmaceutical company is working around the clock striving to find a cure, with many other lesser known organisations doing likewise. However, the fact that no absolute cure has yet been discovered arguably makes the situation even more daunting and, ultimately, scary.
It is why World Alzheimer’s Month takes on such importance as an occasion to raise awareness of a condition that is almost certain to impact us or someone we know directly. Organised and run by Alzheimer’s Disease International, the objective is not only to raise awareness globally but to challenge stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia. The event has been running since 2012, with September 21 specially designated as World Alzheimer’s Day.
This year’s theme is “Never too early, never too late” which centres around risk factors and risk reduction by campaigning “to underscore the pivotal role of identifying risk factors and adopting proactive risk reduction measures to delay, and potentially even prevent, the onset of dementia,” according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
It is an opportunity for individuals, businesses and charities to take positive action to raise awareness and support all those impacted by the disease, including patients, carers, families and the medical industry. There are a whole range of ways you can get involved and support the campaign, including making a donation, fundraising, organising or participating in a memory walk, wearing a purple ribbon throughout the month (the official colour of Alzheimer’s Awareness), volunteering, honouring a caregiver and leaving a gift in your will. There are also a number of virtual activities. You can find out more here. More information on Dementia Action Week can be found here.
Alzheimer's Disease International
a/ 15 Blue Lion Place, London SE1 4PU
p/ +44 20 79810880
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