Dr Waheed Abbasi writes about Dementia Action Week

Dementia Action Week takes place between the 20th and the 26th of May 2019 and the aim of the week is to encourage people to take action to improve the lives of those affected by dementia, working to create a dementia-friendly community where those with dementia do not feel excluded.

There are 850,000 people in the UK who are affected by dementia, and it does not just affect the elderly, 40,000 people in the UK under the age of 65 suffer from early onset dementia. It is believed that by 2051 the number of people who have dementia in the UK will have risen to 2 million.  Within Northern Staffordshire (North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent) it is estimated that 6,124 of the local population (over 65) have dementia.  As of February 2019, 4,854 people had received a diagnosis.

Dementia is not a normal aging process.  While people experience problems with memory with aging there is a difference between occasional memory problems and dementia.  Memory problems can be annoying if they happen occasionally, but if problems with your memory are affecting your daily life or worrying you or someone you know, you should seek help from your GP.

But dementia isn’t just about memory loss.  It can also affect the way you speak, think, feel and behave.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.   Common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss – especially problems with memory for recent events, such as forgetting messages, remembering routes or names, and asking questions repetitively.
  • Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning.
  • Becoming confused in unfamiliar environments.
  • Difficulty finding the right words.
  • Difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops.
  • Changes in personality and mood.
  • Depression.

These symptoms may appear very slowly and may not be noticed at first.  If you have any concerns about your memory you should make an appointment with your GP who will assess you and perform blood tests and a test to check your memory.  The GP will then either reassure you (if all tests including memory are normal and arrange a follow up if appropriate) or refer you to the memory clinic for further assessment.  If dementia is diagnosed at the memory clinic, support will be provided by the memory clinic (medications or follow up and referral to a support group).

Unfortunately dementia is often a slowly progressive disease but the good news is that there is so much we can do to help treat and support people with dementia.  There are a number of services available locally to help and support people.  So the key message is that you or someone you know is experiencing memory problems it is vitally important to be formally assessed by your GP.  Once formally diagnosed, people with dementia and their carer, will be able to access the right treatment, care and support.  If you are a carer of someone with dementia please inform your doctor’s surgery.  The surgery will be able to advise you of local services who can provide support to carers.

If you would like further information why not visit two events that will showcase local support services at the Affinity Shopping Centre, Talke, on Saturday 18th May between 10 and 4 pm or Longton Market on Wednesday 22nd May.  There will be a number of stalls providing advice and support on dementia including memory support clinic staff and carers information