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10 Things You Should Know About Dementia

1. Dementia is more than just memory loss – most people associate dementia with memory loss, but the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways. That might include changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, delusions and hallucinations, difficulty communicating, problems judging speeds and distances and even cravings for particular foods. Everyone’s experience of dementia is different.

2. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing - 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 behavior. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and it doesn’t just affect older people.

3. Dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older – while it’s true that the majority of people with dementia are over 65, the condition is not a normal part of getting older. The likelihood of developing dementia rises with age, but it’s not a given that an older person will develop it.

4. There are things you can do to help prevent dementia - Lots of people think dementia is hereditary and there’s nothing you can do to stop it developing, but according to the University of Cambridge there are seven risk factors for developing the disease, and avoiding these could help prevent it. These include diabetes, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking, and low educational attainment.

5. Dementia isn’t hereditary - The majority of dementia is not inherited, and only around 5% of Alzheimer’s cases are due to genes. There is a gene, known as chromosome 19, which is apparently linked to developing the disease, but we don’t really know enough about Alzheimer’s disease to know why this is the case.

6. No person's experience of dementia is the same - Dementia is not all about memory loss and confusion. These are key features but everybody who lives with dementia will have their own unique experience. Some people have difficulty with language and finding words, while others struggle with everyday tasks. Some find that their personality or mood changes while others lose interest in getting involved in new projects. Similarly, how dementia affects people over time will also be unique to each person - their relationships, other health conditions, how people respond to them and their environment may all have an impact on how their symptoms progress.

7. There are no treatments to stop the diseases that cause dementia – while some treatments can help people to live with their symptoms a little better, there are no treatments that slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s. This means that the diseases will continue to get worse over time unless new treatments can be found quickly.

8. Dementia doesn’t discriminate – dementia is a condition that can affect anyone regardless of background, education, lifestyle or status.

9. Drugs can help symptoms - A cure for the various types of dementia may still be years away, but scientific progress is being made all the time. There are drugs already available – including Aricept, which is now widely available as generic donepezil – which can help people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, while these can help alleviate some symptoms in some individuals, they cannot stop the gradual deterioration of brain function.

10. 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.

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