This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.
Age old problem: how to stay clever for longer | Alexis Willett and Jennifer Barnett
3 December 2017, 6:00 am
There are ways to ward off dementia and the ill effects of brain ageing, say Alexis Willett and Jennifer Barnett
Sorry to break it to you, but there’s bad news. Your brain is shrinking (probably). None of us is getting any younger and time is increasingly taking its toll on our brains; our neurons are getting smaller and we’re losing connections between them. But should we accept this pattern of degeneration as inevitable? Is there anything we can do now to optimise our brains and protect them against the ravages of ageing?
When we talk about healthy brain ageing we are really discussing one of two things: how to minimise ongoing damage to the hardware of the brain, mostly by keeping its blood supply as good as possible; or how to improve the operation of the brain’s software. Many ways of doing this have been suggested, but few have scientific weight behind them. There is currently no magic bullet to protect the brain, but one area that has been best researched, and about which we can say with reasonable confidence, “this will help”, is mental activity.
A back-up ‘reservoir’ of cognitive function can protect us from the effects of brain damage
How a simple plan to give dignity to dementia patients is changing society | Nicci Gerard
3 December 2017, 12:05 am
In just three years, John’s Campaign has turned from an idea into a nationwide movement
There’s a happy-making little film on YouTube of a man dancing by himself at a music festival. Some people sitting on the grass nearby look on, curious and amused. Most ignore him or don’t notice him; their backs are turned and their attention elsewhere. Then after a minute or so, another person gets up and joins in, grinning and a bit self-conscious, but with him nevertheless. Now there are two people dancing. Another stands up, hesitates and then starts to dance. Now there are three: three makes it a group. There are four, five, 10, more and more. Too many to count.And soon a whole field of people is dancing. It’s become a movement. The people who started it don’t matter any more.
John’s Campaign turned three last Thursday. It was launched in this paper on 30 November, 2014, with an article I wrote about the catastrophic effect of hospital upon the health and selfhood of my father, after whom the campaign is named. When he went into hospital, he was living with dementia, happy and beloved and linked to his world by a thousand invisible threads. Restricted visiting and a lockdown of his ward because of norovirus meant that, one by one, those delicate threads were cut. When he came out five weeks later, he was no longer living with dementia but dying with it: a radically slowed-down death and a harrowing way to say goodbye.
There are people who would have died alone who have died surrounded by their family.
Marriage could help reduce risk of dementia, study suggests
29 November 2017, 12:01 am
Compared with married couples, single people have a 42% elevated risk of dementia, and those who have been widowed a 20% increase, researchers find
Being married could help stave off dementia, a new study has suggested.
Levels of social interaction could explain the finding, experts have said, after the research showed that people who are single or widowed are more likely to develop the disease.
Manuela Sykes obituary
28 November 2017, 1:46 pm
Manuela Sykes, who has died aged 92, devoted much of her life to political activism and, at a late age, won a landmark legal case over the right of individuals with dementia to publicise any challenge they make to their living conditions.
Manuela was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, to Arthur Sykes, a Yorkshireman who was at one time in the Canadian mounted police, and his wife, Manuela von Hundelshausen, of German and Dutch heritage. After attending Richmond County school for girls in south-west London, Manuela served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the second world war, then studied international affairs at University College London, where she was secretary of the student union, staging a sit-in soon after her arrival when she discovered that women were banned from the junior common room.
FA and PFA set up study into football’s possible links with dementia
23 November 2017, 12:48 pm
• Glasgow-based doctors to compare former players with general population
• Cases of Jeff Astle and England 1966 winners raised concerns about heading
A Glasgow-based research team will investigate whether former footballers are more likely to suffer from dementia later in life than the general public.
The new study, which is titled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” (Field) will start in January and will be led Dr William Stewart and colleagues at the University of Glasgow and the Hampden Sports Clinic.
Comedy in a care home: the standups taking slapstick into new territory
21 November 2017, 4:52 pm
The residents were expecting bingo. Instead they got lessons in strawberry spitting, a Railway Children spoof – and a stuntman stripping to his underpants
Monday afternoon is usually bingo time at the Madelayne Court care home, in the village of Broomfield, near Chelmsford. So today’s activity comes as a surprise to many comfortably seated residents: striding on stage in front of them is former Neighbours actor Nathan Lang – he’s dressed as a stuntman and preparing to leap through a hoop he’s pretending is on fire.
“You’ve lost it!” hollers one elderly spectator, and Lang does look momentarily perplexed. How do you deal with hecklers here?
‘What responses will they get? says a resident called Margaret. ‘Probably dead silence’
‘Ever milked a cow?’ Helen Duff asks a woman called Audrey – and suddenly memories of her life on a farm re-emerge
The healthcare gender bias: do men get better medical treatment?
20 November 2017, 4:35 pm
A study this month found that women are less likely than men to be given CPR – but it is not the only way in which they are given short shrift in an industry where female pain is serially misdiagnosed
You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you see someone collapse to the ground. They are unresponsive, not breathing. Do you perform CPR? No doubt you like to think that you would. But what if the unlucky person was a woman? The question may seem redundant, but unfortunately it is not: a study this month found that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.
The research, funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that only 39% of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, versus 45% of men. Men were 23% more likely to survive and one of the study leaders, Benjamin Abella, speculated that rescuers may worry about moving a woman’s clothing, or touching her breasts. One idea mooted was more realistic-looking practice mannequins to account for the female torso.
How virtual reality is taking dementia patients back to the future
20 November 2017, 6:00 am
The Wayback project recreates coronation day in 1953 on 3D film using actors, period costumes and props, right down to fish-paste sandwiches. The effect is to bring back vivid memories for those struggling with the present
In a comfortable armchair, glass of sherry at her side, Elspeth Ford is getting to grips with her 3D goggles. “Maybe I’ll go another other way now,” she says, looking left, right, up, down. She breaks into a cheery rendition of the Lambeth Walk.
Elspeth, 79, is a resident at Langham Court, a dementia care home in Surrey, and today she is trialling a virtual reality project, Wayback, that has been designed especially for those living with dementia. Peering into her headset, Elspeth is temporarily transported to 2 June 1953, and a street party for the Queen’s coronation. She is enjoying a children’s fancy-dress competition. “I love that boy dressed as an Oxo cube,” she laughs.
Can brain training reduce dementia risk? Despite new research, the jury is still out
16 November 2017, 5:42 pm
There are good reasons to be cautious about a new study claiming computer-based training can reduce the risk of dementia. But what does work?
More than 30 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s disease, and while researchers are pushing hard to find a cure, their efforts so far have met with failure. With no effective treatment on the horizon, prevention has become the only game in town. But what can be done to reduce the risk of dementia, now the leading cause of death in England and Wales?
In research published on Thursday, US scientists claim that a form of computer-based brain training can reduce the risk of dementia by 29%. The training was designed to speed up people’s visual information processing, for example by having them spot a car on a screen, and a truck on the periphery of their vision, at the same time. Those who are claimed to have benefited trained for an hour, twice a week, for five weeks, and some went on to have booster sessions at the end of the first and third years. To see if the training made any difference, the participants sat tests up to 10 years later.
Rare genetic mutation found in Amish community could combat ageing
15 November 2017, 7:00 pm
Discovery of mutation which appears to protect against biological ageing raises hopes for new treatments to prevent age-related disorders
The discovery of a rare genetic mutation that prolongs human life has raised hopes for new treatments to combat ageing and prevent age-related disorders from heart disease to dementia.
Researchers spotted the mutation in an Amish population in Indiana where carriers were found to have better metabolic health, far less diabetes, and tended to live a decade longer than others in the community.
Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me review – heading for trouble
13 November 2017, 6:00 am
The former Newcastle and England striker’s investigation into links between brain damage and heading the ball is fascinating yet inconclusive. Plus: more Blue Planet II and The Queen’s Favourite Animals
In comes the cross from the right: who’s there for it? Alan Shearer, who else. Unchallenged, he braces himself, heads the ball cleanly, down to his left, the net bulges, goal!
So now he’s presumably going to peel away towards the corner flag, with a Cheshire cat grin and his right arm raised, palm open, while adoring black-and-white-clad geordies chant: “Shearer, Shearer!”
Marjorie Prime review – Jon Hamm is a haunting presence in potent sci-fi parable
8 November 2017, 3:22 pm
An eightysomething woman with dementia lives with a ghost-like hologram of her late husband in this affecting meditation on memory and mortality
Marjorie Prime is an affecting and audacious chamber piece: a futurist meditation on memory, mortality and the self. There is a certain sci-fi strangeness that doesn’t preclude an audience being moved, and the continuous thread of Mica Levi’s orchestral score maintains a heightened sense of awareness and even exaltation.
Michael Almereyda directs his own adaptation of a play by Jordan Harrison, and 87-year-old Lois Smith gives a tremendous performance in the lead, having originally played the part in the theatre. You can only imagine the tumultuous curtain call Smith must have received every night, and my slight reservation is that the authentic physical presence of actors on stage might have made this drama’s themes even more effective.
Social care funding can’t take any more setbacks. It needs reform now | Jane Ashcroft
2 November 2017, 11:23 am
The UK is approaching a perfect storm with an ageing population and many people unprepared for the future
For a short while, it seemed like the issue of social care funding would finally be addressed after years of government procrastination. The Conservatives promised a consultation on social care reform, U-turned on the so-called dementia tax and, instead, confirmed their intention to cap the amount people pay towards care.
But now that plans to introduce such a cap have been scrapped and the social care consultation is rumoured to have been delayed until next summer, it seems that the government has followed previous administrations and kicked social care funding into the long grass.
How distress of family dementia turned Vicky McClure into a campaigner
28 October 2017, 11:04 pm
The Line of Duty star knew she had to take on a new role after her grandmother was diagnosed
When the Bafta award-winning actress Vicky McClure agreed to open a small fundraising event for dementia seven years ago, she knew very little about the condition. A year later, her grandmother was diagnosed with it and the suffering it caused over the next three years had a far-reaching impact on McClure, best known for her role as detective sergeant Kate Fleming in the BBC police drama Line of Duty.
McClure, 34, from Nottingham, is now using her experience, personally and professionally. She supports the Alzheimer’s Society charity, attending its annual Memory Walks that raise millions across the country. And she has appeared in dementia-friendly theatre performances. There is even a hint she is creating her own drama on the subject.
Blood-thinning drugs ‘can reduce risk of dementia by up to 48%’
24 October 2017, 11:05 pm
Research ‘strongly suggests’ that patients taking anticoagulants for irregular heartbeat could be protected against dementia and stroke
Blood-thinning drugs could protect against dementia and stroke in people with an irregular heartbeat, research suggests.
Dementia tax: Tory MPs urged to back Labour push to scrap policy
24 October 2017, 9:00 pm
Opposition day debate will call on Conservatives to confirm they will ditch unpopular manifesto pledge
The shadow social care minister has called on Conservative MPs to renounce the so-called “dementia tax”, proposed in the party’s election manifesto, before a debate in parliament on the social care crisis.
Social care funding and the cost of short-term thinking | Letters
22 October 2017, 5:38 pm
A royal commission recommended the extension of free care as long ago as 1999, says Robin Wendt; plus Gillian Dalley on private sector planning; David Herriott on a ‘death tax’ and Bernie Evans on short-term thinking in government generally
You suggest (Editorial, 17 October) that “the gradual extension of free care, starting with critical care and extending to those with substantial needs as money became available” would be a key part of the reform of social care funding. A solution on these lines has been available to governments since 1999 when the royal commission on long-term care (of which I was a member) recommended that the costs of intimate personal care should, in principle, be met by the state from general taxation, with individuals being responsible like the rest of the population for their housing and living costs subject to means testing.
The unassailable justification for this proposal is the gross injustice whereby cancer sufferers have all their needs met by the state while others, notably Alzheimer’s sufferers, are liable for their own care costs unless they have negligible resources. However, the proposal was brusquely rejected by Westminster, though adopted in Scotland, where it works effectively. Had it been accepted back then, “free care” would now be a seamless part of health and care provision covered by mainstream funding.
Homes are not assets to be passed on to children, says minister
12 October 2017, 8:18 am
Labour says Jackie Doyle-Price resurrected ‘dementia tax’ by saying taxpayer should not ‘prop up’ people with care needs
Homes should not be seen as assets for parents to pass to their children, a Conservative minister has said in new footage recorded from the party’s conference, which Labour said resurrected the idea of a “dementia tax”.
The social care minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, told a fringe meeting that many older people were “sitting in homes that really are too big for their needs” and said the party was still looking to make reforms to the funding of social care.
‘Childline for older people’ gives friendly ear to 10,000 lonely callers each week
4 October 2017, 8:11 am
As 75% of older people with depression say they feel lonely, the Silver Line takes calls all year round and helps connect people with their community
Anxiety and mobility issues mean that 76-year-old Anna Bolton* is usually housebound. But regular calls to a free, confidential helpline for older people have helped her “feel normal”.
Dementia is a terrible word. Why do people still use it?
30 September 2017, 8:45 am
It’s important to get an early diagnosis but the word is offensive and takes power away from people
Dementia is a word with a horrific impact.
I’m talking about the word and its origins, not the disease. I have observed people living well with dementia and this antiquated and negative term belittles the contribution to society that they can make. I am in my third year of a PhD and my research is based in care homes where I get to observe good care that challenges, includes and promotes a sense of purpose for residents with dementia. Before this I worked as a community nurse.