There are so many worthwhile causes in this world that I would love to focus upon. However, instead of spreading myself thinly amongst several, each year I will focus on just one cause. This will enable me to commit to making a real difference.
This year my focus will be Dementia.
Did you know that dementia is a disease, just like cancer? A common misconception is that it’s just the natural process of ageing. I’m here to tell you that this is not true.
“Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes.”
The reason for this post is three-fold:
- Promote a deeper understanding of dementia so that people understand dementia is a disease, and not a natural part of aging.
- Highlight that those affected by this disease will need support throughout the stages of dementia, especially at the later stages of the disease.
- Share this information in the hope that more people will reach out to provide support to those in need, further promoting the awareness of dementia.
Need motivation to drive for change? One day it could be you.
Have you seen ever seen the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s?
Look away now if you’re easily disturbed. The image below has been taken from a YouTube video documenting the dissection of a brain damaged by Alzheimer’s.
Below you will see a comparison between a brain damaged by Alzheimers [left] and a normal healthy brain [right]. For comparison purposes, only the left side of the brain was used. Amongst other changes to the brains structure, you will see that a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s shrinks dramatically over the stages of the disease. It is important to understand that this is not a normal part of ageing.
Source: Alzheimer’s brain dissection; published on YouTube by Defying Dementia.
“Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia but not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s.”
- There are around 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia.
- The chance of developing dementia increases significantly with age – but it does also affect younger people.
- 1 in 14 people over 65 years of age, and 1 in 6 people over 80, has dementia. It is more common among women than men.
- More than 40,000 younger people (under the age of 65) in the UK have dementia. This is called early-onset or young-onset dementia.
The exact symptoms experienced by someone with dementia depends on the areas of the brain damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia. Dementia affects everyone differently and can present itself in a huge variety of ways. Some of the commons symptoms, highlighted by alzheimers.org.uk are listed below.
- Memory loss: problem recalling recent events or repeating themselves.
- Difficultly thinking & planning: problems concentrating, grasping new ideas or struggling with familiar daily tasks.
- Problems communicating: difficulty finding the right word or struggling to follow a conversation.
- Confusion about time or place: losing track of the time, date or season and not knowing where they are.
- Sight & visual difficulties: difficulty judging distances and misinterpreting patterns.
- Mood changes or difficulty controlling emotions: becoming unusually sad, frightened or angry. Losing interest in things, becoming withdrawn and lacking self-confidence.
Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. How quickly it progresses varies greatly from person to person. In the middle and later stages of dementia, people will need more and more support with daily activities and personal care.
Becoming a Dementia Friend
“A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action – anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend.”
Want to help, but don’t know where to start? Becoming a Dementia Friend is one of the best ways to get involved. Just check out dementiafriends.org.uk to find out how you can join others across the country to create dementia-friendly communities.
Actions You Can Do – Today
“Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From telling friends about Dementia Friends to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts.”
As a Dementia Friend, you will receive a copy of “The Little Book of Friendship”. In here you’ll read about ways to get involved and learn that there’s no action too big or too small.
- Spread the word: encourage your friends and family to become a Dementia Friend and become part of a growing community.
- Share a cuppa: a cup of tea and a chat doesn’t sound like much, but spending a bit of time with someone with dementia can help them to continue to live a normal life.
- Fundraise, campaign or volunteer: visit alzheimers.org.uk/getinvolved for opportunities and stay tuned for information on my sponsored 26-mile hike along Hadrian’s Wall.
It could be you!
One day, god forbid, it could be you asking for help. There are 168 hours in a week; and a whopping 730 hours in a month – how do you choose to spend them?
Let’s look at an example of a week [based on myself who has no children]:
168 hours per week:
Working: – 40 hours
Sleeping: – 56 hours
Gym: – 4 hours
Eating: – 5 hours
Washing/ self-care etc.: – 7 hours
That adds up to a total of 112 hours on average, per week, that is spent on activities I would consider compulsory. That means, I still have 56 hours a week left to play with. That’s 8 hours a day that I can effectively utilise in ways that can help others, while also further developing myself.
That’s a whole other working day!
You may have far more mandatory activities than I do; however, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how you spend those precious hours you are gifted each day. Is there an hour available from your 168 hours that you could spare in service to another?
Call to action
Please share – help to develop a dementia-friendly community.
The dementia guide [NHS]: Living well after diagnosis
The Little Book of Friendship: Tips and ideas to be a great Dementia Friend
Dementia Friends: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk
Alzheimer’s brain dissection; published by Defying Dementia – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqmZFoGvzfU
Alzheimer’s Society: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/