Is your life touched by dementia?  If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s, or any other type of dementia, this blog is dedicated to you.  Our very best thoughts are going out to you today, and every day.

Today, 21st September is World Alzheimer’s Day.  It’s the highlight of September’s World Alzheimer’s month, in which organisations and individuals around the world focus their efforts on raising awareness of the issues by people affected by dementia.

Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, is becoming a global health epidemic.

No longer, thank goodness, cruelly referred to as “senile dementia”, Alzheimer’s disease comes under the spotlight today to help us all understand the impact and sheer scale of a disease that we just can’t ignore.

History of World Alzheimer’s Day

The day was launched in 1994 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Alzheimer’s Disease International Association (www.alz.co.uk), a body which promotes knowledge and learning about the disease throughout the world.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease, named after Alois Alzheimer, the physician who first described it in 1906 is an incurable, irreversible degenerative brain disease.

In simple terms, Alzheimer’s is understood as the breaking down of the connections between the nerve cells in the brain over a period of time. As these changes take place in the hippocampus (the memory part of the brain), people with Alzheimer’s progressively lose their short to medium-term memory; even the ability to do basic things, like make a cup of tea or tie their shoelaces slowly fades away.

Examination of Alzheimer’s patients after death reveals plaques and tangles, which also cause the brain to shrink.  Literal and actual confusion, jumble and disorder.

These symptoms rob our loved ones of the ability to communicate, read, enjoy a TV programme or even keep themselves safe. They decline and disappear in front of our very eyes. Not for no reason do so many relatives of Alzheimer’s patients mourn their passing before their actual death.

Alzheimer’s tends to appear in late middle age or older, with rare cases of younger people, even children, developing the disease.

What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Many people confuse the two.  Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, the latter being an umbrella term for the numerous different types of dementia that affect people.  Vascular dementia and Lewy Body dementia are types of dementia, for example.

Dementia – One of our Biggest Challenges

As dementia tends to affect the older population, it seems that the price we pay for living longer is severe. Did you know that nearly 50 million people are living with dementia worldwide?

And, it goes without saying that this is a disease that takes its toll on families; for every Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the knock-on effect for wives, husbands, sons, daughters and even neighbours can reverberate for years. Many late-stage dementia sufferers simply cannot be left alone for a minute.

The stress, worry and life-changing impact for carers must never be under-estimated.

Therefore, Alzheimer’s Disease International is lobbying for greater global advocacy to ensure that governments fully implement and fund national dementia plans.  Their campaign for all countries to develop an understanding of, and access to early diagnosis of dementia is a key part of today, World Alzheimer’s Day, so look out on the news for local events or awareness-raising initiatives.

Help and Advice

Is someone you care about starting to show signs of short-term memory loss?  Or behave a little strangely perhaps? You know this person well so don’t ignore the symptoms. You’ll be aware the that things aren’t right before they are.

We’d urge you to start with your GP.  He or she will see both of you together.

Sadly, in many cases, dementia is a disease of absolute and utter denial. The person may refuse to admit that there is anything wrong, so early diagnosis will enable your GP to offer help and support and suggest practical next steps.

Have a look at this site for useful advice:

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support

Reach Out for Support

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, or any other form of dementia, you are one of our country’s unsung heroes.  Even if it’s “just” a job and you work for an agency or via the direct payments scheme, you genuinely care for the people you support, and you make a difference to their lives every day.

We just thought we’d say…Thank you.  Thank you for everything you do day in, day out.  We know it’s not easy.

Here at Carers’ Support, we’d be delighted to hear from you.  We run support groups and we have an advice line – 0300 028 8888 in which you can register as a carer to benefit from the support we offer.

Let’s mark World Alzheimer’s Day together.  We’re here for you if you need us.