Guardian Dementia

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

Terry Jones – a man who grasped the meaning of life

He was not the most high-profile of the Pythons, but he was the funniest, the most modest and the most essential

This is the story of the most extraordinary child who ever stuck his tongue out at the prime minister.

So begins Terry Jones’s favourite of his own children’s books. It goes on, “His name was Nicobobinus”, but it could have been Terry himself. And the only question should be: how might he himself like to be remembered?

I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded

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26 January 2020, 8:26 am

Do you know someone with dementia admitted to hospital as an emergency?

If a relative, friend or someone you care for with dementia was admitted to hospital, we want to hear what happened. Share your experiences

Do you know anyone with dementia who has been admitted to hospital as an emergency? If so, we’d like to hear from you. We’d also like to hear more about this issue from NHS staff.

Figures from NHS data showed that hospitals in England recorded more than 379,000 admissions of people with the condition during 2017/18. That was 100,000 more than the number of such patients admitted in 2012/13.

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22 January 2020, 4:29 pm

'Her whole demeanour changed': why lifelike dolls are being used in dementia care

Doll therapy, using toys that appear to breathe and have a heartbeat, is being introduced in care homes and day centres

Brenda Madden, 94, sits in an armchair in a care home in Abertillery in south Wales, holding a baby doll that appears to breathe and have a heartbeat. She has advanced dementia and can no longer speak, but looks peaceful as she cradles the doll and bends down to kiss it as if it were one of her own children.

“At first it was a bit of a shock,” says her daughter, Sandra. “It was a bit upsetting because she’s gone back in time to when we were kids.” Her brother Barry agrees but can now see the benefits of doll therapy for his mother. “She’s always loved kids. She’s got four children, 11 grandchildren and four or five great-grandchildren. We can see how much she loves [the doll] and we’ve accepted it.”

Related: Pioneering programme reduces need for dementia medication

Related: Sign up for Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals

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22 January 2020, 8:51 am

Emergency dementia admissions to hospitals up 35% in five years

NHS data for England shows reality of social care system, says Alzheimer’s Society

The number of people with dementia being admitted to hospital as a medical emergency has risen by more than a third in five years, figures have shown, with a lack of social care blamed for the increase.

NHS data showed that hospitals in England recorded more than 379,000 admissions of people with the condition during 2017/18. That was 100,000 more than the number of such patients admitted in 2012/13 – a 35% jump in five years.

Related: The five: ways to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s

Related: Does your loved one have dementia? Here are five books that can help

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22 January 2020, 12:01 am

From depression to dementia, inflammation is medicine’s new frontier | Edward Bullmore

The barrier between mind and body appears to be crumbling. Clinical practice and public perception need to catch up

Unlikely as it may seem, #inflammation has become a hashtag. It seems to be everywhere suddenly, up to all sorts of tricks. Rather than simply being on our side, fighting infections and healing wounds, it turns out to have a dark side as well: the role it plays in causing us harm.

It’s now clear that inflammation is part of the problem in many, if not all, diseases of the body. And targeting immune or inflammatory causes of disease has led to a series of breakthroughs, from new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases in the 1990s, through to the advent of immunotherapy for some cancers in the 2010s. Even more pervasively, low-grade inflammation, detectable only by blood tests, is increasingly considered to be part of the reason why common life experiences such as poverty, stress, obesity or ageing are bad for public health.

Related: Joining a choir helped me combat anxiety and find a meditative state of pure joy

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19 January 2020, 3:51 pm

Mixed reception for move to ban children heading footballs

Campaigners welcome ‘positive step’, but some working in children’s football question how enforceable it would be

Peter Monk gave a wry response when asked if he thought children should be allowed to head a football from a young age.

“To be honest, with the younger ones, if a goalkeeper kicks high, very rarely will you get them heading the ball anyway,” said the chair of the Panshanger football club in Hertfordshire. “It comes out the sky and they act like it’s a UFO and just let it bounce.”

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16 January 2020, 7:20 pm

Children in Scotland could be banned from heading footballs over dementia link

  • Scottish Football Association finalising proposals
  • Children under 12 could be banned from heading in training
  • Share your experiences

A move towards banning children from heading balls in training in Scotland because of the links between football and dementia has been welcomed as a “positive step” by the campaigner Dawn Astle, who has urged other governing bodies follow its lead.

The Scottish Football Association is finalising its plans but it is understood that it wants to “lead the way” on the issue. The BBC says that a ban on children under the age of 12 from heading could be introduced within weeks.

Related: Can football headers lead to dementia? The evidence is growing

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16 January 2020, 9:50 am

Can Thailand provide better dementia care than the UK? | Letters

Readers respond to news that British families are sending elderly relatives with dementia overseas to Thailand in a small but growing trend

In your report (Families sending relatives with dementia to Thailand for care, 13 January), the statement that “local authority residential care costs up to £700 per week with private care costing around £1,000” is misleading. It implies that local authorities run their own care homes, when in fact few do, since most councils closed down their care homes or transferred them to the profit-driven private sector a decade or two ago.

Now, they pay fees to private care homes for people living in their areas who qualify under the means test (having assets of less than £23,250). At the same time those same private care homes charge customers with assets above the £23,250 threshold about £1,000 a week – who thus, in effect, subsidise councils where the latter have managed to negotiate a lower rate.

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14 January 2020, 5:39 pm

'I still dream of my husband': life with dementia in Japan – photo essay

As stigma around the country’s health crisis starts to fade, some care facilities are at the forefront of devising ways to tackle the challenges of a super-ageing society

  • All photographs by Robin Hammond

For the millions of Japanese people living with dementia, diagnosis is often the beginning of a journey into a life of seclusion.

When dementia is covered by the media, it is in the form of news about experimental therapies, or reports on the latest police campaign to encourage older people to surrender their driving licences.

The voices of people living with the condition – in ever rising numbers among an ageing population – are often missing from the public debate.

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14 January 2020, 7:00 am

Families sending relatives with dementia to Thailand for care

British people with disease sent abroad over inadequate and expensive care at home

British families are sending elderly relatives with dementia overseas to Thailand in a small but growing trend.

Researchers visiting private care homes in Chiang Mai have found eight homes where guests from the UK are living thousands of miles away from their families, because suitable care in their home country was impossible to find or afford.

Related: Dementia: what happens when memory fails us

Related: ‘Eventually I knew she was no longer safe alone’: how do we care for family with dementia?

Related: ‘I’m in touch with nature’: the care homes connecting residents with the outdoors

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12 January 2020, 10:38 pm

'Every moment here is magical': Essex school wins dementia award

How pupils at Downshall in Ilford are helping older adults combat loneliness and social isolation

A primary school in Essex has won a national dementia award for an innovative intergenerational project, which brings together isolated older adults and children in need of additional support with extraordinary results.

The project at Downshall primary school in Ilford is one of a growing number of intergenerational initiatives in the UK designed to bring benefits to both old and young, while helping to fill the gaps left by cuts to local community support services.

Related: ‘Eventually I knew she was no longer safe alone’: how do we care for family with dementia?

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7 January 2020, 6:00 am

UEA begins study with former players into link between football and dementia

• £1m Scores project to screen ex-footballers’ brain health
• Retired footballers aged over 50 being sought to take part

Research into the link between football and dementia is to be intensified by a £1m study that tests former players for early signs of the disease.

The Screening Cognitive Outcomes after Repetitive Head Impact Exposure in Sport (Scores) project, run by the University of East Anglia (UEA), aims to screen former footballers’ brain health for evidence of dementia that may appear long before any other symptoms, such as memory problems, become apparent. It will begin in the eastern region but will be rolled out nationally later this year and retired footballers, whether men or women, aged over 50 are being sought to take part.

Related: Landmark study reveals link between football and dementia

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7 January 2020, 12:01 am

'Students have a bad name': how cities are healing the town v gown divide

Rapidly expanding universities have overwhelmed local communities. How can students integrate?

Wild parties, chaotic flatshares and heavy drinking are viewed with affection as the youthful hijinks associated with university life – but not by everyone. With some universities rapidly expanding following the removal of the student numbers cap, these behaviours are fuelling a growing divide between students and their local communities.

The past year has seen reports describe how residents are “fed up” with noisy student parties in Bristol, how student housing is “destroying the local community” in Brighton and Liverpool, and how wealthy students are pushing up house prices in Durham. Much of the focus is on the student accommodation blocks that have changed some city centres beyond recognition.

Related: ‘Far too many are struggling’: are universities failing autistic students?

Related: From dog-petting to desk yoga: do ‘wellbeing weeks’ make university less stressful?

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19 December 2019, 7:00 am

'I'm in touch with nature': the care homes connecting residents with the outdoors

Buildings designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors indoors give people happier, healthier lives

“I love the space all around here,” says care home resident John Ryan. “Previous homes I have lived in have been large, Victorian-style houses and in the garden you would have a monkey puzzle tree with a little area to walk around in a circle, and that’s it. Very boring.”

The 85-year-old is anything but bored now. As he reminisces about his younger days travelling the world with his wife and working in agriculture, he pauses now and then to play a fish-themed game on the interactive table in front of him. When another resident joins him, the game is changed to a gentler challenge – painting colour on to a blossoming tree. It is one of a number of nature-themed activities residents at West Hall care home can take part in, from bingo and pub quizzes to art.

Related: Green therapy: how gardening is helping to fight depression

Related: Flower power: the hospice using horticulture to care for its patients

Related: Sign up for Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals

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29 November 2019, 8:12 am

Does your loved one have dementia? Here are five books that can help

From a psychologist’s account to a picture book, the author of Elizabeth Is Missing shares titles that explore the physical and emotional impact of dementia

Nearly a million people are living with dementia in the UK, towns from Skipton to Falmouth are becoming “dementia friendly” and care homes are engaging residents through poetry classes and pony visits. As the ignorance and stigma begin to fade, studies of the condition proliferate and it has developed from an unspoken possibility in literature – is King Lear a study of declining brain function? – to a major plot device.

When it comes to practical help, few books can improve on psychologist Oliver James’s Contented Dementia. James argues that it is better to indulge a loved one than insist on brutal truth and make every encounter into a battle, constructing his argument through case studies that offer examples of difficulties as well as success. There is no single version of dementia, and no one prescription, but James encourages carers to respond with flexibility and love.

Related: ‘It was morally wrong’: the plot to abandon a man 5,000 miles from home

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16 November 2019, 9:58 am

My daughter died of dementia at 42. I'm angry doctors took so long to diagnose her

As a nurse I’m used to dealing with illnesses, but not enough is known about this cruel disease. I want to increase awareness

My daughter Anna was 36 when she started to exhibit strange, inexplicable behaviours, both at work and at home. Anna was a clinical trials research nurse in a busy hospital. She was also a wife, and a mum to two young sons.

Her behaviours escalated to the point where it was not safe for her to be at home. She would clap, bang her head, whistle, wail, take off her shoes and run like a child in the hospital corridors, eat any food she could lay her hands on, bite and chew inappropriately. Worse than that was her complete lack of empathy and inhibition. She was forced to give up her job and had to come and live with us, her parents.

Related: My son died of sepsis. He’d still be alive if I’d known what it was

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14 November 2019, 10:46 am

‘It was morally wrong’: the plot to abandon a man 5,000 miles from home

When an elderly American with dementia was found near Hereford in 2015, it created an extraordinary international puzzle. Who put him there, and why?

There was something not quite right about the two men struggling out of Hereford bus station on a blustery day in November 2015. The dark-haired one was wearing what appeared to be military fatigues; his much older companion seemed confused and barely able to walk. A concerned passerby went to help. The younger man, who seemed to have an American or Canadian accent, explained that he had found the older man face down on a country road and was taking him to Hereford county hospital. She walked with them, doing her best to support the faltering older man, who could not move more than a couple of paces unaided. As the three of them approached the turning to the hospital, she flagged down an ambulance. The paramedics suspected dementia and assessed the older man in the rear cabin; he seemed to be smiling and crying at the same time. He had no ID and could only give his first name, Roger.

His companion, sitting opposite, told the crew the same story: he had found the man on the side of a road some distance from Credenhill, a village on the outskirts of Hereford. But he claimed he couldn’t share his own contact details because he had been working at the nearby SAS base, and soon vanished into the early evening gloom.

How did it feel to leave a confused, distressed old man? ‘It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do’

Hayes talked of a glamorous life in LA and being on an SAS course when he found Roger. But his story began to unravel

Hayes says the only lies he told were to protect Roger and his family. Did his friend take advantage of him? ‘Probably’

Related: Murder on the allotment: ‘She was everything that he wanted to be’

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9 November 2019, 11:00 am

Alzheimer’s Society chief Jeremy Hughes: ‘Dementia can be a winner from this general election’

As the Alzheimer’s Society celebrates its 40th anniversary, the outgoing head is confident social care reform will happen

When he recently stayed in a care home to experience life as a resident, Jeremy Hughes witnessed the admission of an elderly woman from hospital. Before she was even shown her room, she and her daughter were taken to the manager’s office and asked how they intended to meet the difference between the home’s fees and what the council was prepared to pay on her behalf.

“The inhumanity when people are under enormous stress has got to end. We cannot put up with that,” says Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity, which this week celebrates the 40th anniversary of the letter that led to its founding. The charity wants social care reform to be as big an issue in the general election campaign as it was in the 2017 contest.

Related: ‘Eventually I knew she was no longer safe alone’: how do we care for family with dementia?

Related: Dementia care failings cost businesses in England £3.2bn

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6 November 2019, 7:00 am

Dear editor … how a letter about one family’s dementia plight helped millions

In 1979, a reader wrote to the Observer about a ‘sad, quiet, epidemic’ that had destroyed her family. Her plea led to the foundation of the Alzheimer’s Society

Forty years ago this week, Morella Kayman (then Morella Fisher) wrote to every British national newspaper to describe the eight-year nightmare she had just endured as her husband Lawrence succumbed to early onset dementia. She and her daughter, Mandy, had been left to cope with his increasing incapacitation with little help, support or advice from doctors or social services. It was a gruelling experience.

After Lawrence, who had begun to develop symptoms at the age of 51, was taken into a nursing home, his wife decided that other carers of people living with dementia should not share the same experience as she had, and in her letter outlined plans to set up a society that would raise awareness, provide information for families and generate funds for research. Her plea was taken up by the Observer’s medical correspondent Christine Doyle, who wrote a feature, The Sad, Quiet Epidemic, which outlined Kayman’s plight – and her plans.

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3 November 2019, 9:07 am

We know football and dementia are linked. So what will the game do about it? | Barry Glendenning

A landmark study confirmed what many – including the family of West Brom and England legend Jeff Astle – long suspected

So now we know. Revealed last week, the results of a landmark study into the relationship between football and brain damage confirmed what many in and outside the game have long suspected: former professionals are significantly more likely to suffer from dementia and other serious neurological diseases in their later years. Three-and-a-half times more likely, to be precise. The research project, conducted over nearly two years by the University of Glasgow’s Brain Injury Group also discovered 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. What football – those who play, coach and govern the sport – decides to do with this crucial information remains to be seen but recent history suggests any real progress in the field of player safety will be made at a glacial pace.

Dawn Astle spent time on the night of her 34th birthday alone with her father, who had just died after choking during a family dinner. Frantic efforts by relatives and paramedics had failed to save Jeff, the former West Brom and England legend who, at 54, had first begun to show symptoms of the brain damage that would eventually lead to his death. Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, his descent into utter helplessness was swift and before his death five years later he was incontinent, barely able to feed himself and had no idea who he or anyone around him was. In Michael Calvin’s book State of Play, Dawn tells the author that as her father’s body lay in repose she swore an oath on his behalf. “If football has done this to you, Dad,” she said. “I promise you I’ll make sure the whole world knows and I’ll get justice for you.”

Related: Landmark study reveals link between football and dementia

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28 October 2019, 10:00 am