10 things you didn’t know about dementia

Many people carry their own preconceptions about dementia, and often it is only when someone close to them is affected that they begin to discover what it really is and the impact it has on our lives

1 Three per cent of UK population will have dementia by 2051

Every three minutes, someone in the UK develops dementia, and one in three of all the babies born last year will develop the condition in the course of their lifetimes. More than 850,000 people in the UK are now living with the condition, and that figure is expected to rise to one million by 2021, and two million by 2051 (out of a projected total population of 77.4 million). The diseases associated with dementia already cost the UK economy more than £26 billion a year, which is more than cancer and heart disease combined, but only £90 per patient is spent annually on dementia research.

2 Less wealthy countries will see the fastest increase

Worldwide, dementia affects 50 million people, but it isn’t a condition that’s restricted to affluent nations. In fact, between now and 2050, it is likely that the largest rate of increase in dementia will take place in low-income countries and in regions including China, India, and their south Asian and western Pacific neighbours. Dementia is a truly global health issue.

3 Dementia is the umbrella term for a range of symptoms

It is not actually a disease in itself, but more of an umbrella term for a series of diseases with similar symptoms, including memory loss and confusion. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, affecting two-thirds of over-65s who have dementia, but there are a range of other such diseases including vascular dementia, which is a decline in cognitive skills due to reduced blood flow to the brain; the less common frontotemporal dementia, which affects the front and sides of the brain and causes problems with behaviour and language; and dementia with Lewy bodies, which has a close similarity with Parkinson’s disease. Dementia can affect anyone regardless of background, education or income, and although lifestyle and genetics play a part, there is currently no certain way to prevent it.

4 Dementia hits women the hardest

Women are hit disproportionately hard by dementia, both as individuals and as carers. In the UK, up to half a million women live with its symptoms. In 2014, dementia was the leading cause of death for women in England and Wales, and second for men, although since then it is has overtaken heart disease to become the leading cause of death for both women and men across the UK. However, women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hour care for people with dementia – much of it unpaid.

Women reading the newspaper

5 Dementia affects the young, too

Age is the biggest risk factor when it comes to developing dementia, but it is by no means inevitable that everyone will begin to experience symptoms as they approach older age. Although the majority of people with dementia are aged 65 and over, more than 40,000 people in the UK living with a related disease are younger than this.

6 It’s not just about losing your memory

Memory loss may be a very obvious sign of dementia, but its symptoms can affect individuals in a variety of ways. Confusion and disorientation, as well as difficulties in communicating, can progress over time; for some families, accompanying personality changes, mood swings and even aggression may be the hardest symptoms to cope with.

7 There are things you can do

It is possible to carry on living an independent life, even once you have been diagnosed with dementia, particularly if there is professional and personal support close by. Many people in the UK and worldwide opt to live in their own homes for as long as they can – either alone or with the help of family members or other carers. By taking up hobbies, making friends or becoming actively involved in, for example, Alzheimer’s research studies, it is possible to live a fulfilling and active life despite dementia.

Elderly man playing board game

8 Drugs can help symptoms

A cure for the various types of dementia may still be years away, but scientific progress is being made all the time. There are drugs already available – including Aricept, which is now widely available as generic donepezil – which can help people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, while these can help alleviate some symptoms in some individuals, they cannot stop the gradual deterioration of brain function.

9 Dementia research is underfunded

Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates that dementia receives just four per cent of the Government’s medical research budget, and there is currently just one dementia researcher in the UK to every four cancer researchers. Despite increases in Government funding for dementia research in recent years, it is still playing catch-up compared to other serious health conditions. The charity believes that the Government’s annual investment in dementia research funding must be doubled to a minimum of £132m by 2022 to help bring about life-changing treatments.

10 Dementia research needs YOU

By volunteering to take part in ongoing desk-based or clinical research, you can make a vital contribution to fighting devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Whether you are already caring for somebody with dementia, or simply wish to give time and support to the most challenging health issue of the age, there are opportunities for you to play a direct role in the latest scientific efforts to tackle dementia in all its forms. You can go to the Join Dementia Research website to register your interest in participating in dementia research.

Please follow and like us: