World Alzheimers's Day highlights highlights the efforts still to be made

September 07 2018
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At Monks Park we like to encourage the younger members of our community and as such, once a year, we offer work experience to a student from a local school.

Our article for September was written by our Year 10 work experience student Catherine Lloyd who joined us from Bristol Free School for a few days in August.

Often called a ‘family disease’, Alzheimer’s disease affects not only sufferers but their loved ones, who have the chronic stress of witnessing mental decline. It is increasingly common too, with approximately 1 in 14 over-65s affected. That’s why on September 21st , World Alzheimer’s Day, efforts are made to combat and raise awareness of this disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, which is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. No exact cause of dementia is known, but it is believed that old age, family history, untreated depression and lifestyle factors associated with cardiovascular disease are significant risk factors.

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, and the first symptom is usually minor memory problems, such as forgetting names or where things are. Many people assume that this is a normal part of aging, which can prevent an early diagnosis. More serious symptoms can follow such as:

-confusion and getting lost in familiar places

-difficulty planning or making decisions

-becoming aggressive or suspicious

-inability to carry out self-care tasks or moving around

-anxiety or depression

There’s no exact method of prevention for Alzheimer’s disease, but leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risks. Cardiovascular disease has been linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so improving your cardiovascular health may reduce the likelihood of getting the disease.

This includes restricting alcohol to a minimum, not smoking, having a balanced diet and enough exercise. Getting regular health tests to check blood pressure is also important. Staying mentally and socially active through volunteering, learning languages and doing new hobbies can also reduce your risk.

After a diagnosis of dementia, a care plan will be agreed with you by your GP, Social Services or memory assessment service. This might include how to keep doing things that are important to you, information about local services and health conditions that need regular monitoring and the name of the person co-ordinating the support you need.

If you need help with everyday tasks, a needs assessment from your local social services will identify what your needs are. A financial assessment will see how much you’ll need to contribute to this. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, you may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance and support from your local council. Ask for a carer’s assessment. In Bristol you can request this through the Carer’s Support Centre or if you’re one of our patients, we can book you in for one here at the surgery.

You may eventually need the support of a care home. The council will carry out another needs assessment to confirm this and a financial assessment will decide how much you will have to pay towards the care home fees. There are a number of charities that can offer help and support to people living with dementia and their families and carers.

The Alzheimer’s Society website provides information on how to live well with dementia. It runs the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 for information and advice about dementia.

Dementia UK is a national charity whose aim is to improve the lives for people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK carries out dementia research and their infoline 0300 111 5 111 provides help and guidance on how friends and families can get involved. Age UK has advice on a wide range of topics including care planning, benefits, choosing a care home and information on local activities and services for people with dementia. They also run a free national helpline 0800 055 6112.

In Bristol the Carer’s Support Centre have a helpline for carers 0117 965 2200. They work in partnership with The Carer’s Trust and provide an information and advice service including how to get support, benefits advice and carer’s assessments. Nationally, Carer’s UK provides information and advice for carers.

Catherine Lloyd