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Dementia Action Week

By Chloe Hall

This year, Dementia Action Week begins on 13th May.

What is dementia?

The NHS defines dementia as a series of symptoms associated with the deterioration of brain functioning. Approximately 900,000 people are suffering with dementia in the UK at present. The two most common types are Alzheimer’s dementia and vascular dementia. The former causes brain cells to die and the brain to shrink, whereas the latter is the result of restricted blood flow to the brain.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Initially dementia sufferers can display partial memory loss, for example, remembering moments from the past much more vividly than recent ones; as a result somebody with dementia may feel anxiety or anger because they cannot fully recall information or memories; there may also be problems following the plot of a programme, a book, the drift of a conversation, or the ability to think through an issue. Dementia sufferers can often appear to be confused.

How do these symptoms progress?

The issues above become more apparent and frequent. People can feel less confident about performing everyday routines. They can seem lost even though they are in a familiar situation or environment. They can seem despondent and unusually anxious. They can also experience problems with expressing ideas and seem confused a good deal of the time. Their language can become impaired. They can display shifts in personality, perhaps appearing uncharacteristically aggressive or paranoid.

Does Alzheimer’s disease solely affect elderly people?

The short answer is no, but the majority of sufferers are elderly. The NHS estimates that over the age of 80, one in six people suffer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. However, one in twenty cases of the disease occurs in people under 65, when it is classified as ‘Early onset’.

Is it practical to self-diagnose Alzheimer’s disease?

Yes, but because the disease progresses relatively slowly people may attribute a symptom like forgetfulness to the process of aging. Ironically, the gradual progression of the disease may hinder people from realising that they are dementia sufferers.

What if you feel worried about memory loss or other symptoms?

It is important to remember that memory loss in itself does not mean that you have Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is a good idea to make an appointment to consult with the GP. The NHS advises that it would be beneficial were a relative or friend to accompany you to the appointment because they will be able to describe and confirm any changes from their viewpoint. The doctor can oversee a series of tests which will help to assess your symptoms. A GP can also refer you to a specialist team which can support you with more assessments, and further analysis of your symptoms and, if appropriate, put in place a practical plan for treatment. There are medications available which can target symptoms of the disease. And by making some simple changes to the home environment it is usually possible to make it easier for someone in the early stages of the disease to continue safely and effectively with their daily routine.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented or cured?

Because the causes of the disease are at present unknown, it is not possible to prevent or cure the disease. However, experts recommend several steps which might delay the onset of the disease or reduce the risks of developing it: keeping your brain stimulated, for example reading or solving puzzles; keeping physically active, perhaps going out for a walk, running an errand, or doing some gardening; eating regular meals and aiming for a well-balanced diet; reducing alcohol intake; and stopping smoking. These self-help steps can also prove beneficial in addressing other medical conditions including looking after your mental health in general. Likewise, while Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated through medicines and other therapies.   


If someone you know who is showing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it is a good idea to direct them to seek advice from a GP. However, if talking to a professional seems too challenging there are alternative places to begin. Our blog offers advice on a variety of mental health issues. Sometimes just getting some extra information can prove to be a positive first step.

Our mental health services directory, Wellbeing West London, can help you find mental health services near you.

Our Safe Space service may also be able to help. We provide an alternative to A&E for people experiencing a mental health crisis, and can give advice, support, or just listen.

And we operate some Advocacy Services in Ealing

The NHS gives additional help and resources on Alzheimer’s disease here.

Posted on: 7th May 2024

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