While unfortunately there is currently no known cause or cure, we can educate ourselves to have more of an insight into the disease, to provide more understanding and better support those living with it.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK. Dementia is a condition associated with an ongoing decline in brain function. The exact cause is not fully understood and there is currently no known cure. However, there are several factors that research has linked to the increasing risk of developing the condition, including…
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition, which means symptoms develop gradually over several years and, with time, so does the severity. The first sign of Alzheimer's disease, in most cases, is minor memory problems. For example, forgetting about recent conversations or events, or forgetting the names of places and objects. As the condition develops, further symptoms tend to develop. Some may include:
The NHS reports that the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia increases with age. It is estimated that 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80 live with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Society UK states 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. However, around one in every 20 cases of Alzheimer's disease affects people aged 40 to 65, with 42,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in the UK. This is called early- or young-onset Alzheimer's disease.
As previously mentioned, the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease progress slowly, so it can be difficult to recognise that there are changes in people’s memory. However, Alzheimer’s disease is not a “normal” part of the aging process; if you are concerned about your memory, it is recommended you see your General Practitioner (GP) for further review and investigation into the cause of your symptoms.
There's no single test or procedure that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. An accurate and timely diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is important and gives you the opportunity to prepare and plan for the future. If you are going to see your GP about any concerns of Alzheimer’s it is a good idea to take someone with you who knows you well. They can help describe any changes or problems they may have noticed as well. If you are worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment and suggest that you go along with them for support. If Alzheimer's disease is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist service to assess your symptoms in more detail, organise further testing such as brain scans if necessary and/or to create the most appropriate care plan.
People diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can live for many years after they start to develop symptoms. It is also a unique condition that can vary considerably from person to person.
If you are dealing with Alzheimer’s personally, or know someone with the disease, you are not alone. There are several charities and advice lines available for any help you may need.
Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline 0300 222 1122 and website: www.alzheimers.org.uk includes information on all dementia-related diseases, information on how to live well with dementia and how to find help and support near you.
Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Admiral Nurses are registered nurses and experts in dementia care. They give practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia, to improve their quality of life and help them cope. To talk to an Admiral Nurse, call the free helpline; this is for carers, people with dementia and health and social care professionals.
Alzheimer's Research UK (www.alzheimersresearchuk.org), information line 0300 111 5 111, carries out dementia research but also answers questions about dementia, including how you, your family and friends can get involved to help.
As the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not clear, there are no known ways to prevent the condition. However, there are things that the NHS recommend, which may reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:
These measures have other health benefits, too, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and improving your overall mental health, and should therefore be part of any healthy lifestyle.
One in three people in the UK know someone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst the fight is still on to discover a cure, having an awareness of the disease provides a little more support to those living with it.
Alzheimer’s Society: www.alzheimers.org.uk