This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.
• Four-fold risk of Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease
Former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to suffer from dementia and other serious neurological diseases, a landmark study has found, confirming a long-suspected link between the sport and brain damage.
A 22-month research project by the University of Glasgow’s Brain Injury Group also discovered there was a five-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s, a four-fold increase in motor neurone disease and a two-fold increase in Parkinson’s.
Dutch government warns there will be 75 million people with condition worldwide by 2030
Dementia poses a threat to global health on the same scale as HIV and Aids, the Dutch government has said, warning that the number of people with the condition will not be far off the population of Germany by 2030.
In a speech to the World Dementia Council summit in Japan on Friday, Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister, said dementia was underfunded, misunderstood and overlooked, as HIV and Aids were in their early days.
BBC decision to transfer cost of licence fee will hit vulnerable older people hard, says Labour
More than half a million older people with dementia could be forced to pay for their TV licences from next year, according to research commissioned by Labour, findings the party said were “a national scandal”.
Tom Watson, the shadow culture secretary, who has pushed for the government to maintain funding for free TV licences for those aged 75 or over, said the process of applying for a licence could be particularly difficult for those with dementia.
There are five outstanding nominees for this year’s prize, decided by public vote
Five nominees have been shortlisted for this year’s public servant of the year award. Voting is now closed.
Our final winner will be a public servant who has contributed outstanding work and made a real difference. The five candidates have been chosen by our judges and all have met the award criteria. They all:
embody the very spirit and ethos of public service
have gone the extra mile for service users and made a real difference to outcomes
have overcome challenges in their public service role
When her mother started to forget, the Guardian’s health editor began to examine how we look after loved ones living with dementia
She grips my hand and tows me behind her around the small courtyard garden, past the pretend bus stop and the red phone box with no dialling tone, down an alleyway of gravel that leads to a wooden gate. “Here,” she says. “It may be locked.”
It is, of course, securely padlocked. It’s hidden away but still Mum has found it. I take her by the arm. “It’s OK. We can get out the other way,” I say, leading her inside, through the chintzy cafe where no money is exchanged, to the lift. I bleep my electronic visitor’s pass. The doors to the outside world open for us. Mum walks through them, asking no questions, and admires the flowerbeds.
Alzheimer’s charity says people forced to quit or change work hours to care for loved ones
Businesses in England lost £3.2bn last year because people had to leave their job or change their working patterns to care for someone with dementia, a leading Alzheimer’s charity has said.
Of the 355,000 people of working age caring for a loved one with dementia, more than 147,000 have had to reduce their work hours or have had difficulty balancing work and caring. More than 112,000 people had to give up their job in the past year, with many retiring early because of their caring commitments.
I thought dementia was all about losing myself, but I have found sides to me I never knew I had
It was at work where I noticed my first symptoms. I was a non-clinical team leader training matrons and sisters in the art of electronic rostering. My girls called me a workaholic. My brilliant memory, the thing I relied on most, started letting me down badly. Simple words failed me in meetings, the names of colleagues I’d worked with for years were suddenly a mystery. I used to take long runs by the river to unwind, but my brain stopped communicating with my legs and I started having falls. I knew somehow that things were not right, but when I finally went to the doctors it took a long time to get the diagnosis. Initially my symptoms were dismissed as age or stress related (I was 58), but I was persistent and knew how the system worked. When I finally received the diagnosis, in 2014, it was devastating but it was also, bizarrely, a relief. It finally put an end to all the uncertainties which meant I could now start planning my life with this new, unexpected label attached.
I was determined to choose a positive path. The very nature of my diagnosis signalled the loss of the old me – my memories, my tastes, my abilities, my plans I took for granted – but, more importantly, it signalled the birth of the new me, a new chance. Many find it hard to believe, but I feel I’ve gained more than I’ve lost.
Shocked at the lack of awareness, I now shout from the rooftops
One thing dementia has taught me is never give up on myself
Kristof Bilsen’s new film is about western Alzheimer’s patients in Thailand. He explains the ‘western gaze’ – and why his film struck a deeply personal chord
‘It’s easy for people to say, ‘We should all care for our loved ones’,” says Kristof Bilsen “But what happens when you can’t?” For his new documentary, Mother, the 39-year-old Belgian travelled to northern Thailand to film at Baan Kamlangchay, a centre for westerners with Alzheimer’s whose families have left them in the hands of Thai caregivers.
The political was very personal for Bilsen. During the three years he made the film, his own mother Rosemarijn was in decline with dementia. “My dad tried to give her home care but he’s 78, so it proved overwhelming,” Bilsen says. “So he visited her a lot in an old persons’ home. The subject of the film is very close to me – the frustration of not being able to care for our most beloved.”
Tottenham Hotspur Foundation’s dementia workshop shows how beautiful game can be good for the mind too
Gary Mabbutt, the former Tottenham Hotspur club captain and England player, looked thoughtful. “A Spurs player with a name starting with Q? Barbara, can you think of anyone?” Barbara Greensmith hesitated, her arms and legs convulsing under the table.
Mabbutt turned to Hirok Moitra, sitting on his other side. “Hirok, any ideas?” Moitra sat expressionless and immobile, staring into the middle distance. There was a long silence. Then Moitra suddenly announced, “Andy Quy.”
Nicci Gerrard writes movingly about the ways that we try to keep dementia at arm’s length (Don’t ignore dementia – it affects us all, 15 August). Dementia is what so many of us fear most about old age. It is a disease of the brain, but its impact is immeasurably different to other physical diseases. It is thought of as a single invasive force, but may affect memory, behaviour, sense of location or speech. Because of fear of the present and the future, many try to hide its development from partners, outsiders and indeed themselves. Above all, the fear seems to be of losing one’s self, the sense of “who I am”.
It is imperative that we talk about dementia, and that we guard against the words that are so destructive of people’s hold on their lives. I remember from a research project the raw pain of a woman talking about the hospital visits when she and her husband found out he was living with dementia. There was a wonderful, warm consultation when the husband pleaded with his wife not to respond to the request to say what was going on. She knelt down at his knees and said: “I’ve got to.” They both trusted the consultant, who did not appear threatening. Other episodes were not like that. On one occasion she asked how best to support her loved one and was told to stop thinking about him as “he has no quality of life”. Another time she wanted to accompany him when he was undergoing tests but was asked not to. He came out crying: “I’ve let you down, sweetheart; I’ve let you down. I couldn’t answer all their questions.” She was angry that she had not been there to hold his hand.
There’s a silent crisis in our midst. Often cunning and stealthy like Grandmother’s Footsteps, sometimes swift and brutal, dementia is all around us. One in eight people die of it. In the UK, a person is diagnosed with it every three minutes. Yet we are still collectively failing to acknowledge this self-demolishing illness, which is now the largest cause of death in England and Wales and the one we most fear. Why?
It is refreshing to see an article about the effects of social activity in preventing dementia on the front page of the Guardian (Social life may lower the risk of dementia, 3 August). The sad fact is that this has been known for many years, including examples such as the Nun Study, which examined the effects of ageing on a group of Roman Catholic nuns in the United States.
So much research on either the cause or the prevention of dementia is too narrowly focused; too much attention is paid to the brain and not enough to the whole person. Research in the arts has already shown how meaningful cultural and social activity keeps people healthier for longer. What we need now is not more research on brains, but increasing investment to maintain and develop our cultural resources and encourage wider participation in the arts. This would help to build social connections between people of all ages, and prevent a host of diseases, including dementia.
Experts call for urgent action to tackle ‘biggest health crisis of our time’
Dementia is the biggest health crisis of our time, experts have said, as statistics show the condition was the primary cause of death in England and Wales last year.
Almost one in eight people died from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, with the proportion increasing for the fourth consecutive year – up from 12.7% in 2017 to 12.8% in 2018. There were 541,589 deaths registered in England and Wales last year, the highest total since 1999.
Actor, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is supporting calls for a £2.4bn fund to be created
Dame Barbara Windsor has called on Boris Johnson to ease the dementia care funding crisis to better support the growing number of people being diagnosed with the condition.
The 82-year-old actor is backing an open letter from the Alzheimer’s Society, together with her husband, Scott Mitchell, and is urging the public to sign it before it is delivered to 10 Downing Street in September.
Being socially active in 50s and 60s linked to lower risk of illness later in life, researchers say
Being socially active in your 50s and 60s may help lower the risk of developing dementia in later life, a study has found.
Researchers studied data that tracked more than 10,000 people from 1985 to 2013. The participants answered a questionnaire every five years about the frequency of their social contact with friends and relatives. They were also subject to cognitive testing, and electronic health records were searched for dementia diagnoses.
Defining and delivering quality care in a post-austerity era is a challenge, but users’ experiences can shape policy and practice
“Funding matters, of course it does, but the thing people really care about is the quality of the care that they receive,” Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, told the recent Local Government Association annual conference.
What is quality? How do you define it, how do you measure it and, most importantly, how do you provide it?
Protein tau may spread more rapidly in female brains than males’, adding to range of factors
The reason women appear to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men might be due to a number of genetic, anatomical and even social influences, researchers have suggested.
Recent figures show about 65% of those with living with dementia in the UK are women, with a similar statistic seen in the US for Alzheimer’s disease, while dementia is the leading cause of death for women in England. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of the types of dementia, but the most common form.
Eight-year study suggests genetic predisposition does not make condition inevitable
A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking and watching alcohol intake could reduce the risk of dementia – even in those with a genetic predisposition to such conditions, researchers say.
Recent figures suggest there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and it is the leading cause of death for women in England. Many studies have indicated that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing such conditions. A recent report suggested a third of cases could be prevented by tackling factors such as exercise, blood pressure, hearing and diet. In May, the World Health Organisation released guidelines on how to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle.
I had to give up my job as a doctor but I have adapted well – and I am still busy, sociable and cheerful
It’s been almost a decade now since I was visiting my patients and was startled when one started hugging and kissing me. A couple of weeks later, I realised that the woman was a friend I’d known for 20 years. That was how it all started.
When I was in my late 50s I began to notice things weren’t normal. At the time I was working as an executive partner in a general practice in Southampton. I started getting lost: I couldn’t remember how to get to the branch surgery, how to get home, and it was frightening.
It was during a conference that I realised I could no longer continue working. I looked around and said: “Right, shall we start with introductions?”. I turned to the person next to me who replied: “But Jennifer, I’ve worked with you for years.” By the time they got to the end of the room I realised that something was seriously wrong.
I had to resign after that. My patients meant too much to me. I couldn’t even imagine having to go into court if something happened – like forgetting to put one decimal place on a prescription. Many people can still work when they have dementia but not in my job.
I diagnosed myself with dementia. The GP believed me, but because I was a well-regarded doctor, the consultant didn’t want to even consider it. He said: “There’s nothing the matter with you.” I asked for further testing by the neuropsychology professor and they thought I should see a consultant who specialised in younger onset dementia, which I did.
I am one of 50 million people globally living with dementia. About two thirds of that number have Alzheimer’s disease, just like me. Others have vascular dementia, mixed dementia, Lewy body dementia or frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). That community is likely to rise to about 152 million people by 2050. Every three seconds someone develops dementia.
Training care workers can help break the taboo about sexual relationships between residents
Frank and Mary loved each other’s company. They would sit together and hold hands. Both had dementia and were living in a care home. Their closeness made them happy and their families were delighted.
Mary wasn’t bothered when Frank called her by his wife’s name, nor that he began to intervene in her day-to-day life. They were besotted. He started sitting her on his knee, and, after a few drinks, they could be found canoodling in the corner.