This week, May 20th to 26th, is Dementia Action Week, an annual event organised by the Alzheimer’s Society and working to create a dementia-friendly UK where those with dementia do not feel excluded.
Around 850,000 people in the UK are affected by ‘dementia’ – an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions which affect the brain, with symptoms including memory loss, confusion, mood and personality changes, difficulty concentrating and general cognitive impairment. Although usually age-related, more than 40,000 people in the UK under the age of 65 suffer from early onset dementia.
Formerly known as ‘Dementia Awareness Week’, the switch to ‘Dementia Action Week’ reflects a change of focus from not simply being more aware of dementia to taking positive action to create changes in society that people with dementia want and need. As people live longer, it is estimated that by 2051 the number of people in the UK affected by dementia will have passed the two million mark, with changes needed now so that communities can better meet their needs.
Throughout Dementia Action Week, everyone is being asked to take actions both large and small to help make everyday life better for those with dementia. That could mean getting involved in a range of fundraising and awareness events taking place across the nation, to finding out what is being done to make your local community dementia-friendly, and getting involved. You can find out more details about Dementia Action Week by visiting www.alzheimers.org.uk
Another UK national charity supporting the initiative is Independent Age, which has produced a helpful and clearly written factsheet on ‘Living with Dementia’. You can download a copy by clicking here or request a copy by post by phoning the charity’s free helpline on 0800 319 6789.
Of course, when someone is affected by dementia, it isn’t just that person who is affected, but also those who love and care for them. Looking after someone who with dementia can have a big impact on your life. In many cases, those doing the caring are themselves elderly and might not be in the best of health.
It is important to get as much help and support as you can – there might be financial help available as well as practical support and advice. Again, Independent Age has a wide range of information available on the many aspects of caring for someone with dementia. You can find out more by clicking here.
The first step in getting help, support and treatment is getting a medical diagnosis of dementia. If you are worried that you, or a loved one, may be affected by dementia, you should speak to your GP. The NHS also has a lot of information online about dementia, including the signs and symptoms to look for, tips for living with dementia, and how we can all help with the wider challenges it poses. To find out more, click here.