Guardian Dementia

This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.

This latest Alzheimer’s drug breakthrough is reason for hope – and further funding

Researchers are a step closer to unravelling the cruel mystery of the dementia that afflicts my wife and so many others

In an age of excessive information, we have each developed a filtering system. To compensate, we acquire our own keywords, which pierce these systems, or, in the old parlance, make our ears prick up, be they the names of favourite teams, musicians, pastimes, conspiracy theories. Brexit.

In recent years, I have joined millions of others in acquiring the more unfortunate triggers of “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s”, but these keywords are not always the harbingers of bad news. Last week, the headlines linking them with others, such as “breakthrough” and “treatment”, will have set many of us off into a frenzy of information-gathering.

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4 December 2022, 7:00 am

The Guardian view on Alzheimer’s drugs: a working therapy would be a breakthrough | Editorial

The search for a cure for dementia continues, but scientific advance in treatment is a landmark moment

Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is the holy grail of medical research. The incurable malady is – along with other dementias – the leading cause of death in the UK. Until now, no therapy had emerged that could even slow its lethal brain shrinkage, let alone stop or reverse its grim progression. Treating dementia has also been an underfunded cause. By some estimates, more research has been done on Covid in the past three years than on dementia in the past century. Yet this week, a drug that works for Alzheimer’s has appeared on the horizon, raising hopes that there may be some relief from a deadly and cruel condition.

The drug, lecanemab, is a landmark in medicine, and the first treatment to slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. People understandably focus on breakthroughs that deliver a cure. Dementia is a frightening disease. It may begin innocuously enough, with a little forgetfulness. But the sickness gnaws away at a person’s mental agility, their memory and ultimately their personality. Patients can end up delusional, incontinent and incapable of looking after themselves. Death arrives on average about eight years after the initial diagnosis. Lecanemab’s effect is modest. In a clinical trial involving 1,800 patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the drug slowed its development over 18 months by about a quarter.

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1 December 2022, 6:29 pm

NHS ‘nowhere near ready’ to deliver new Alzheimer’s drug, doctors say

Patients unlikely to receive lecanemab before 2026 and health service does not yet have necessary infrastructure

A reorganisation of NHS dementia care is needed to ensure UK patients can receive a groundbreaking drug that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, doctors say.

Detailed results from a clinical trial of lecanemab have confirmed that the drug reduces cognitive decline in patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s, in a hard-won breakthrough hailed as a historic moment for the field.

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30 November 2022, 10:34 am

It’s just a first step, but this new Alzheimer’s drug could be a huge breakthrough | Jonathan Schott

Recent lecanemab trials are reason for hope. But the NHS and other health services may struggle to deliver these new treatments

It is 20 years since the last drug for Alzheimer’s was licensed in the UK. Since then, huge advances have been made in our understanding of the disease’s causes. Better diagnostic tests are available, and we may now be on the cusp of new treatments that could have an impact on some of the fundamental brain changes thought to lead to dementia. This morning, the results of a long-awaited trial of a promising new drug, lecanemab, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It could have beneficial effects for Alzheimer’s sufferers, although there are some caveats.

Dementia is defined as an acquired, progressive cognitive impairment that interferes with a person’s normal activities. In the UK, it affects more than 900,000 people and is the leading cause of death. Alzheimer’s Research UK puts the cost of caring for people with dementia at more than £25bn a year. As the population ages, those numbers will increase. In the UK alone, estimates suggest that about 1.6 million people will be affected by dementia by 2050.

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30 November 2022, 9:48 am

Drug slows cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients, study reveals

Antibody therapy lecanemab removes clumps of protein called beta amyloid that builds up in brain

Researchers have hailed the dawn of a new era of Alzheimer’s therapies after a clinical trial confirmed that a drug slows cognitive decline in patients with early stages of the disease.

The result comes after decades of failure in the field and encouraged experts to say Alzheimer’s – which affects 30 million people worldwide – could be treatable.

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30 November 2022, 12:50 am

Nationwide’s rules left me unable to use my power of attorney

I had to register it with their team, but they couldn’t do that because my mother’s account was closed

My mother has dementia and now lives in a care home, so I have a power of attorney (POA) to manage her finances.

She had a cash Isa with Nationwide Building Society which matured in August and, despite my efforts, we have still not received the closure cheque for £15,240. This is my mother’s money and we need it to pay for her care in the medium term.

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28 November 2022, 7:00 am

There are fairer ways to fund social care for all | Letters

Michael Hill, John Harvey and Tim Johnson on the reforms needed to create a social care system that doesn’t fail people when they’re most vulnerable

Once again, Polly Toynbee deploys her deep knowledge of the deficiencies of social services to good effect (People are dying waiting for social care. Wealthy people’s inheritance issues are not a priority, 22 November). Policy reform needs to focus first on the weakness of the care sector, where poor pay, staffing problems and inadequate training lead people of my age – as they observe how friends and neighbours are being treated – to cross their fingers and hope they can at least avoid institutional care.

Second, there is a need to recognise the particular unfairness that arises from the failure to regard dementia as an illness, denying its sufferers a fully funded response from the NHS. Informal and family care can achieve much, but it is dementia that imposes unbearable demands.

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23 November 2022, 5:30 pm

‘This looks like the real deal’: are we inching closer to a treatment for Alzheimer’s?

After years of setbacks, dementia researchers are getting excited about a new antibody drug called lecanemab. No one expects it to stop cognitive decline, but even slowing it would be a breakthrough

At the end of November, thousands of researchers from around the world will descend on San Francisco for the annual Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease meeting. The conference is a mainstay of the dementia research calendar, the place where the latest progress – and all too often, setbacks – in the quest for Alzheimer’s treatments are made public for the first time.

This year’s meeting is poised to be a landmark event. After more than a century of research into Alzheimer’s, scientists expect to hear details of the first treatment that can unambiguously alter the course of the disease. Until now, nothing has reversed, halted or even slowed the grim deterioration of patients’ brains. Given that dementia and Alzheimer’s are the No 1 killer in the UK, and the seventh largest killer worldwide, there is talk of a historic moment.

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22 November 2022, 6:00 am

Disappointment after potential Alzheimer’s drug fails Roche trial

Swiss pharmaceutical firm carried out two identical phase 3 trials of gantenerumab, with about 1,000 volunteers in each

Hopes of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease have been dealt another blow by the failure of an experimental drug to slow the progression of the condition in global clinical trials.

The Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche said its drug, gantenerumab, showed no clear benefit in twin trials which explored its impact on memory, problem solving and other cognitive skills in people with early stage Alzheimer’s.

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14 November 2022, 1:41 pm

How you can protect vulnerable people from charity callers | Letter

Gerald Oppenheim of the Fundraising Regulator on its work upholding high standards of practice in fundraising

I was troubled to read about the experiences of the reader who said in a letter (9 November) that their mother, who was in the early stages of dementia, had direct debits to charities reactivated after they were cancelled by her family when she was unable to pay her bills.

The Fundraising Regulator exists to uphold high standards of practice in charity fundraising across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have nearly 6,000 charities registered with us, which means they must agree to and meet the standards set out in the code of fundraising practice. This includes being sensitive to people who may be in vulnerable circumstances, such as having dementia.

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13 November 2022, 6:38 pm

Children exposed to lead may experience symptoms of dementia sooner – study

Research on lead poisoning suggests countries could face an explosion of people seeking support for dementia

Lead exposure during childhood may lead to reduced cognitive abilities in later life, meaning people experience symptoms of dementia sooner, data suggest.

The study, one of the first to investigate the decades-long consequences of lead poisoning, suggests countries could face an explosion of people seeking support for dementia as individuals who were exposed to high lead levels during early life progress into old age.

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9 November 2022, 7:00 pm

My vulnerable mum was at the mercy of charitable callers | Letter

A reader’s mother, who has dementia, was left unable to pay her bills due to multiple direct debits to persistent charities

It’s not just criminals and scammers who take advantage of those who are vulnerable (People living with dementia ‘sitting ducks for financial abuse’, 6 November). When our mother was in the early stages of dementia, and before we had power of attorney, she was suddenly unable to pay her bills. When we investigated, we found that it was charities that had repeatedly called her and to whom she’d set up multiple direct debits.

We agreed with her which of them she wanted to keep and cancelled the others. Within a month they were all reactivated. We learned that once her details were in the system, they could be reactivated with a quick call, without providing the bank information again.

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9 November 2022, 4:55 pm

People living with dementia ‘sitting ducks for financial abuse’

Report shows failures by government, financial services and retailers to protect people with dementia from scammers

People living with dementia are “sitting ducks for financial abuse” because of failures by the government, financial services and retailers, according to a report.

The report, Retail Therapy by the International Longevity Centre and independent abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, highlights multiple examples of those living with dementia setting up subscriptions or direct debits after being subjected to repeated doorstep cold calls, scam letters and incessant phone calls in which they were asked to share personal financial information.

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6 November 2022, 12:00 pm

Inaction over lack of exercise will cost £24bn a year globally by 2030, WHO warns

Exercise could help prevent 500m new cases of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and stroke – but government policies are lagging behind

Nearly 500m new cases of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia will occur globally by 2030 if governments do not take urgent action to encourage more people to take regular exercise, a report has found.

In a stark warning to countries where health services are already creaking, the World Health Organization said the cost of failing to get people moving more would be about $27bn (£24bn) a year.

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19 October 2022, 6:15 am

Signs of dementia may be detectable nine years before diagnosis – study

Findings by Cambridge researchers raise possibility of early interventions for those at risk

Scientists have discovered that it may be possible to spot signs of dementia as early as nine years before patients receive an official diagnosis.

The findings raise the possibility that, in the future, at-risk people could be screened to help select those who could benefit from interventions, or help identify patients suitable for clinical trials for new treatments.

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13 October 2022, 5:00 am

TV tonight: one hell of a dinner party in House of the Dragon

The Hightowers are squaring up against Westeros, plus Vicky McClure’s dementia choir prepare to record at Abbey Road studios. Here’s what to watch this evening

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10 October 2022, 5:20 am

People with recent dementia diagnosis found to have higher suicide risk

Calls for more support after England research shows those diagnosed under 65 also at greater risk

People who have recently been diagnosed with dementia, or who are diagnosed with the condition at a younger age, are among those at increased risk of suicide, researchers have found. The findings have prompted calls for greater support for those experiencing such cognitive decline.

While previous research has explored a potential link between dementia diagnosis and suicide risk, the results have been inconclusive, with some suggesting a raised risk and others a reduced risk.

•In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 or chat for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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3 October 2022, 3:00 pm

My brain is shrinking – and so is my world. Could I find out what’s wrong with me?

First, the veteran Guardian foreign affairs correspondent found himself lost for words; then he started falling while out jogging. He and his wife Helen Harris try to make sense of a life-changing year

It was in the summer of 2020 – at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – that I first noticed a problem. I was having difficulty speaking. It wasn’t a casual chat with my wife, Helen, or our two daughters, or my son who lives in the US, but a Skype or Zoom interview about international affairs with a TV channel. I can’t remember which one or what the topic was – probably the Middle East, my main area of expertise, or possibly Brexit. I felt embarrassed because I was less articulate than usual – “lost for words”, as the saying goes.

Apart from myself, I didn’t think anyone would have noticed, particularly as the interview involved an Arabic interpreter. Still, my slow response, and not being able to answer an entirely reasonable question in sufficient detail, were worrying. I hesitated about what to do. Finally, I contacted my GP, who was initially dismissive about my speech concerns. “You sound fine to me,” he told me during our phone consultation. Despite his reluctance, I insisted a few days later on being referred to a specialist at a nearby London hospital.

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1 October 2022, 12:00 pm

Success of experimental Alzheimer’s drug hailed as ‘historic moment’

Study shows cognition in early-stage patients on lecanemab declines by 27% less than those on placebo

An experimental drug has slowed the rate of decline in memory and thinking in people with early Alzheimer’s disease in what is being described as a “historic moment” for dementia treatment.

The cognition of Alzheimer’s patients given the drug, developed by Eisai and Biogen, declined by 27% less than those on a placebo treatment after 18 months. This is a modest change in clinical outcome but it is the first time any drug has been clearly shown to alter the disease’s trajectory.

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28 September 2022, 1:05 pm

UK care homes still stopping family reunions months after Covid rules eased

Support groups say relatives are frightened to speak out about being denied access to elderly residents

Two and a half years after Boris Johnson announced the first UK lockdown, and seven months after the last domestic measures ended, some care homes in Britain are still denying people access to their elderly relatives due to Covid restrictions.

Grandchildren have been banned by some homes, which put age limits on visitors. Others exclude whole families except for one relative named as “essential caregiver”, something that was dropped from government guidance in April.

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25 September 2022, 9:00 am