Guardian Dementia

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

Travellers to Unimaginable Lands by Dasha Kiper review – how dementia changes lives

A clinical psychologist turns the spotlight on caregivers in this profoundly compassionate study

An elegant woman enjoys a gin and tonic and dinner with her husband in a cosy Italian restaurant near their Greenwich Village apartment; their relaxed, lighthearted conversation, long familiar to them, doesn’t miss a beat. But as the time to leave this regular date draws near, he bids her farewell and she, in practised response, surreptitiously changes her dressy shoes to trainers so that she can rush home to arrive before he does. Once there, their dinner will be entirely forgotten to him and, in a painful reversal of their previous intimacy, he will ask her to leave – in the past he has evicted her to spend the night in the hallway or even called the police. He will not believe that they are married, and will react to evidence to the contrary – their shared belongings, anecdotes of their life together – as though it were planted or invented, a rotten fraud being perpetrated on him.

In Travellers to Unimaginable Lands, Dasha Kiper, a clinical psychologist who works with caregivers to people suffering from dementia, is primarily focused on Elizabeth, the wife; what this form of apparent rejection means to her, and how she is able – or not – to negotiate it. There is no story in this book that is not equally heartbreaking: whether it is quotidian, as in the mother who repeatedly removes items from the freezer despite her daughter’s dogged attempts to stop her with entreaties or taped-up instructions; or whether it is comparatively elaborate, as in the elderly woman who befriends the dead authors in photographs on the books she loves, going so far as to invite Stefan Zweig for dinner and ignoring her husband as she attempts, with no outward sign of success, to make conversation with him.

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22 March 2023, 7:30 am

Dinner with Proust: how Alzheimer’s caregivers are pulled into their patients’ worlds – podcast

What do you say to someone whose wife prefers photographs of deceased authors to him?

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17 March 2023, 5:00 am

Footballers 50% more likely to develop dementia, study finds

Neurodegenerative disease diagnosed in 9% of players in Sweden’s top men’s division compared with 6% of control sample

Footballers are 50% more likely to develop dementia than the rest of the population, a study has found, fuelling calls to restrict rules around heading the ball in football.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, published in the Lancet Public Health journal today, compared the health records of 6,000 elite footballers and more than 56,000 non-footballers between 1924 and 2019.

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16 March 2023, 11:30 pm

Mediterranean diet may lower dementia risk by a quarter, study suggests

Data from more than 60,000 Britons suggests plant-rich diet may help regardless of person’s genetic risk

A Mediterranean diet of nuts, seafood, whole grains and vegetables could lower the risk of dementia by almost a quarter, according to promising early research that could pave the way for new preventive treatments.

The data suggests eating lots of plant-based foods may have a “protective effect” against dementia, regardless of a person’s genetic risk, which the researchers said could form the basis for future public health strategies if further research confirms their findings.

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14 March 2023, 6:00 am

The battle to boost our deep sleep – and help stop dementia

The biological ‘brainwashing’ that happens while you are sleeping is crucial for filtering out toxins. Here’s how to optimise your overnight cycle

Tonight, and almost every night, something amazing will happen inside your brain. As you turn off the light switch and fall asleep, you will be switching on the neurological equivalent of a dishwasher deep-clean cycle. First, the activity of billions of brain cells will begin to synchronise, and oscillate between bursts of excitation and rest. Coupled with these “slow waves”, blood will begin to flow in and out of your brain, allowing pulses of the straw-coloured cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that usually surrounds your brain to wash in and be pushed through the brain tissue, carrying the day’s molecular detritus away as it leaves.

Most people recognise that if they don’t get enough sleep, their mood and memory will suffer the next day. But mounting evidence is implicating this “brainwashing” function of sleep in longer-term brain health.

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13 March 2023, 7:00 am

‘Exercise, avoid bangs and invent fairy stories’: Henry Marsh’s guide to keeping brains healthy

The neurosurgeon spent decades making people’s brains better, but a scan led him to focus on the factors that stave off cognitive decline and boost quality of life

As a neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh has spent several decades making people’s brains better (and occasionally, as his memoirs document with breathtaking honesty, making them worse). But that job involved removing tumours and patching up the aftermath of serious head traumas. Keeping a brain in perfect health is an altogether different matter, not least because we understand so little about it.

A couple of years ago, the now 73-year-old Marsh agreed to have his own brain scanned. He was not overly worried about what it might show. He exercised well, stayed mentally active and was not displaying any significant signs of cognitive decline. “But it was slightly shocking, because my brain looked rather elderly,” he says. “I shouldn’t have been surprised because I was 70 years old! But it was rather scary.”

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11 March 2023, 1:00 pm

Don’t forget to floss: the science behind dementia and the four things you should do to prevent it

A picture is emerging of a healthy lifestyle which is key to the condition’s prevention – exercise, being sociable, and looking after your ears

The idea was simple. Recruit hundreds of people in their 80s and 90s, equip them with fitness trackers, and monitor their physical activity. Then, when the participants died, collect their brains and examine the tissue. Is there evidence, lurking in the tissue, that exercise benefits the brain?

The results, from a 2022 collaboration between the University of California in San Francisco and the University of British Columbia, were striking. Physical exercise, late in life, seemed to protect the ageing connections between brain cells – the synapses where memories are made. The work, if backed up by further studies, could see exercise, and potentially drugs that mimic biochemical aspects of activity – prescribed to help slow the onset of dementia.

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11 March 2023, 7:00 am

Dinner with Proust: how Alzheimer’s caregivers are pulled into their patients’ worlds

What do you say to someone whose wife prefers photographs of deceased authors to him?

Henry and Ida Frankel live in a cosy three-bedroom apartment in New York’s Washington Heights. Henry, a softly spoken retired architect of 85, is a short, handsome man with a bald head and small ears. Ida is even shorter, with fine white hair coiled in a bun. Although she is usually smartly turned out, smelling of powder and lavender, only Henry knows how much effort this entails. Whenever he tries to cut her nails, give her a bath or change her clothes, Ida’s small face contorts into something unrecognisable; she becomes like a fierce, cornered animal.

Henry’s and Ida’s families moved to New York from Austria in 1935, when both were 10 years old. They met at the City College of New York, and in 1948, two years to the day after graduation, they married. Allowing for the usual ups and downs, their marriage was a good one. They liked the same novels and films and shared a love of chamber music. Their apartment is lined with books and a large collection of Deutsche Grammophon LPs. There isn’t a CD in the house because, as Henry explained, they couldn’t bear to betray their beloved vinyl.

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28 February 2023, 6:00 am

Seven healthy habits may help cut dementia risk, study says

Researchers present initial findings from study that followed thousands of US women for about 20 years

Seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors may play a role in reducing the risk of dementia, according to a two decade-long study.

Being active, eating a better diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, keeping normal blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and having low blood sugar in middle age may all lower the chances of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease later in life, research suggests.

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27 February 2023, 9:00 pm

Patients losing out amid slump in NHS clinical trials, warn top clinicians

UK falls from fourth to 10th place in phase III trials amid ‘ossified’ bureaucracy and stretched health service

The state of clinical trials in the NHS is “much worse than it has been in years” with patients losing access to cutting-edge cancer and dementia treatments, one of the UK’s most senior clinicians has warned.

Sir John Bell, the regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and a government life sciences adviser, said the UK’s approach needed “a full overhaul, top to bottom” to prevent a collapse in the number of clinical trials being conducted in the NHS.

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27 February 2023, 2:33 pm

Distressed dementia patients don’t belong in hospital wards, but there are often no other options in Australia | Kate Gregorevic

We need to fix the aged care system to properly look after for those with dementia, and their carers

Dementia brings us some of the most difficult questions we as individuals and society can ever face, questions about essential aspects of humanity. To help people living with dementia have the best lives possible, along with their carers, means we need to talk openly about suffering and distress.

While a lot of people think of dementia as simply forgetting, an estimated 60% to 90% of people with dementia will experience neuropsychiatric symptoms throughout their disease, usually as their cognitive impairment becomes more severe.

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24 February 2023, 1:39 am

Dementia now causes greatest burden of illness, injury and premature death in older Australians

Condition overtakes coronary heart disease with 62% rise in number of healthy years lost since 2011, report finds, causing significant impact on carers and families

Dementia has now overtaken coronary heart disease as causing the greatest burden of illness, injury and premature death in older Australians, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Among people aged 65 years and older, dementia was responsible for almost 230,000 years of healthy life lost – a figure that has increased 62% since 2011, the report found.

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22 February 2023, 1:01 pm

Could Alzheimer’s be caused by an infection?

Research into the disease has focused on plaques in the brain. But some scientists think viruses and bacteria play a role – and their work is gaining ground

As Davangere Devanand, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center, combed through the reams of scientific data on Alzheimer’s, he stumbled across a surprising idea – could an infection be involved in driving the disease?

“I was looking for an Alzheimer’s treatment approach that had a reasonable shot of working,” he says. “I found this old theory, going back 35 years, which linked herpes viruses to the disease, and there were all these indirect lines of evidence.”

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19 February 2023, 11:00 am

Frontotemporal dementia: what is it and what is known about its causes?

Most cases are diagnosed when people are about 45-65 years old – earlier than many other forms of dementia

With the family of the actor Bruce Willis having announced this week that he has frontotemporal dementia, we take a look at what is known about the condition.

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17 February 2023, 12:54 pm

Bruce Willis diagnosed with dementia, says family

Family of Die Hard and Pulp Fiction actor, 67, releases statement to share diagnosis following retirement from acting owing to aphasia

Bruce Willis, who retired from acting last May as a result of aphasia, has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, his family announced on Thursday.

In a statement posted to the website for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, the Die Hard actor’s family – wife Emma Heming, ex-wife Demi Moore and daughters Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn – revealed Willis’s aphasia had progressed into a diagnosis of dementia. Problems with language and memory, which instigated rumors about his cognitive state and prompted his retirement in May 2022, are “just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces”, they wrote.

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17 February 2023, 7:15 am

Caring for a partner with dementia takes a heavy toll. Try holding on to the moments of joy | Gaynor Parkin and Erika Clarry

A two-sided approach of acknowledging the negatives while searching for pockets of happiness may help

I’m losing this wonderful man whom I’ve loved and lived with in harmony with for 60 years. Hardest of all, I cannot talk with him about it, when once we talked about everything and could make it right together. This time I’m alone.

Freya’s* heartbreaking description of the haze that dementia was drawing between her husband and her lingered with me long after our conversations. A fiercely independent and capable woman in her 80s, she was relishing retirement years with her husband after successful professional lives and raising children together.

Dementia is a group of conditions that impact memory, thinking, and social skills. Symptoms include impeded routine functioning and reflect a drastic decline in mental capability. Early diagnosis may help slow the speed at which the condition progresses, but there is no cure for dementia. Treatment and medication may help reduce the intensity of symptoms, but their effect is usually minor.

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12 February 2023, 2:00 pm

UK dementia care agency’s half-hour home visits ‘lasted as little as three minutes’

Staff filed records claiming far more care was given, evidence suggests

A dementia home care agency spent as little as three and a half minutes on taxpayer-funded care visits and filed records claiming far more care was given, according to evidence seen by the Guardian.

The hasty care was exposed by Susan Beswick’s family, who called it “totally inadequate”. They say they had been told visits to 78-year-old Beswick, who has Alzheimer’s disease, were supposed to last 30 or 45 minutes.

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30 January 2023, 6:48 pm

‘We can’t even get basic care done’: what it’s like doing 12-hour shifts on an understaffed NHS ward – podcast

The NHS saved my life once, and inspired me to change career. But when I started as a healthcare assistant on a hospital ward for older patients, it was clear how bad things had got. This is the story of a typical shift

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27 January 2023, 9:58 am

Six lifestyle choices to slow memory decline named in 10-year study

Over-60s who combined more healthy lifestyle choices enjoyed most benefit, found Beijing researchers

A combination of healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well, regularly exercising, playing cards and socialising at least twice a week may help slow the rate of memory decline and reduce the risk of dementia, a decade-long study suggests.

Memory is a fundamental function of daily life that continuously declines as people age, impairing quality of life and productivity, and increasing the risk of dementia.

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25 January 2023, 11:30 pm

Owner of UK care home group paid himself £21m despite safety concerns

Exclusive: ‘Eye-watering’ pay for Gordon Sanders comes despite inspectors finding multiple breaches of rules at his firm’s homes

A multimillionaire dementia home boss paid himself at least £21m in five years despite inspectors finding multiple breaches of staffing, safety and leadership rules, with residents left in dirty incontinence pads and staff accused of rough handling.

Gordon Sanders owns Runwood Homes, the UK’s sixth largest for-profit care home group, which charges residents more than £1,000 a week, with bills often covered by the taxpayer.

At Silvanna Court in Wickford “insufficient staff were available, which placed people at risk of harm”. One staff member said: “[residents] are always soiled but we just don’t have enough of us to take [them] to the toilet.” Medicines were not always managed safely.

At St Michael’s Court in Norwich one person was given a sedative three times a day when it was prescribed on an as-required basis. Staff were “rushed off their feet” trying to look after two or three people at once, and people were not consistently offered enough to drink.

At Highview Lodge in Hemel Hempstead, some residents said staff “could be a bit rough when supporting them with care needs or moving”. One person said: “Most of them are kind, some are rough and throw me about.”

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17 January 2023, 4:00 pm