Guardian Dementia

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

Alzheimer's link to herpes virus in brain, say scientists

Research reveals strains of virus more abundant in brains with early stage of disease, though uncertainly whether virus is a trigger or a symptom

The presence of viruses in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease in research that challenges conventional theories about the onset of dementia.

The results, based on tests of brain tissue from nearly 1,000 people, found that two strains of herpes virus were far more abundant in the brains of those with early-stage Alzheimer’s than in healthy controls. However, scientists are divided on whether viruses are likely to be an active trigger, or whether the brains of people already on the path towards Alzheimer’s are simply more vulnerable to infection.

Related: Strobe lighting provides a flicker of hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s

Related: Poor quality sleep could increase Alzheimer’s risk, research suggests

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21 June 2018, 3:00 pm

Dementia: the fight for dignity goes on | Letters

John’s Campaign, which fights for the needs of people with dementia and their carers, is to be applauded – but there is still work to be done

There is still some way to go with John’s Campaign (“Four years after my father died, I feel we’ve reached a milestone in our fight for dignity in dementia care”, Focus).

My mother was admitted to hospital overnight, 200 miles away. I phoned the ward in the morning to inquire how she was before I set off on the journey. I was told they couldn’t talk to me unless I gave them a password. On asking how to get one, I was told I would need to visit with ID. My mother’s dementia meant she would have been totally unable to verify any information herself.

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17 June 2018, 5:00 am

Dementia risk to 50-year-olds with raised blood pressure – study

Possible reason for link could be damage from silent or mini-strokes, researchers say

Fifty-year-olds with slightly raised blood pressure are at an increased risk of getting dementia in later life, a new study has suggested.

Study participants had a greater risk even if they did not have other heart-related problems, the research published in the European Heart Journal said.

Related: Rigorous exercise does not halt dementia decline, study concludes

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12 June 2018, 11:32 pm

Four years after my father died, we’ve reached a milestone in dementia care

NHS acute trusts are opening up visiting hours for carers. It is a victory for common sense, compassion and human decency

Not long ago, I met an old woman whom I can’t get out of my mind. She was wandering a residential street asking people where her husband was – she needed to find him so he could take her home. But her husband had died many years ago and was buried in a nearby churchyard. Another woman I came across in a nursing home stumbled toward me saying over and over: “Hymns of comfort, hymns of comfort.” I held her arm and said someone would come to help her soon. Her reply was a lament: “No one is coming. No one is coming ever.” No one and never: what must it be like to feel so helpless, so lost and alone?

Against these forlorn images I set more hopeful ones: the merry birthday tea party in a hospital dementia ward, say, where patients, carers and nurses sang Happy Birthday around a treacle tart. Or the boy walking with his grandfather in the dementia garden of a provincial hospital. Or the middle-aged daughter sitting by her mother’s bed in a ward, softly singing to her as she fell asleep; perhaps they were songs the old woman had heard as a child.

This a tangible milestone, and a demonstration that the culture around care for those with dementia and frailty is changing

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10 June 2018, 7:00 am

Ageism widespread in UK, study finds

Millennials hold most negative attitudes, with 40% believing dementia is inevitable

Ageism is rife in Britain, with millennials holding the most negative attitudes towards ageing, according to a study.

A quarter of millennials believe it is normal for older people to be unhappy and depressed, while 40% believe there is no way to escape dementia as you get older, research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) shows.

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8 June 2018, 4:14 pm

Can technology help dementia patients? Chips with Everything podcast

An exhibition in London looked at how digital touch technologies could reconnect a person in care with their loved ones

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Touch is a fundamental part of human interaction. Even when our communication is mitigated by technology, as it so frequently is nowadays, it’s often via some sort of touchscreen. But as far as physical interaction with other human beings in the same space, some people think we’re living through a crisis of touch, especially when it comes to older people.

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8 June 2018, 1:23 pm

Nearly 60,000 Japanese drivers showed signs of dementia, report finds

Concern rising about a spike in serious accidents involving older drivers

Almost 60,000 older drivers in Japan showed signs of dementia, according to a new report, underlining the country’s struggle to address the rising number of people living with the condition.

About 57,000 drivers aged 75 and over displayed symptoms when they renewed their driving licences during the 12 months to the end of March, according to the national police agency.

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8 June 2018, 4:40 am

Golden girls: how beauty therapy boosts self-esteem in care homes

Far from being a frivolity, beauty treatments can lift residents’ moods and encourage a sense of individuality

“One of my clients is 99,” says Kelly Anthony. “She never wore makeup all her life and now she’s probably one of the most glamorous ladies in the care home.”

Anthony works as a beautician in care homes across south Wales with her company Beautiful You UK. Far from being a frivolity, she argues that treatments can lift residents’ moods and boost self-esteem, and that even very elderly people and those with dementia enjoy them.

Related: ‘We all like to feel special’: hairdressers style a revolution in care homes

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7 June 2018, 6:30 am

Before I Forget: the video game that tackles dementia

A woman attempts to reconnect with her past self in a game that aims to recreate the experience of early-onset dementia

When you’re playing Before I Forget, wandering around a house inspecting everyday objects, trying to trigger a memory, it feels like a lot of narrative-driven video games: you’re attempting to piece together a story using clues left behind. But this game puts you in the shoes of Sunita, a woman suffering from early-onset dementia, which infuses what you’re doing with sadness and significance. The house is delineated in monochrome, colour seeping back as she gradually reconnects with her past self. Examining a photograph provides a clue to her identity; a familiar piece of music might recall an important person in her life.

Other symptoms are conveyed in more disconcerting ways. Sunita can become lost in her own home in a nightmarish loop, opening doors that all lead to the same dark broom cupboard. Before I Forget was exhibited as part of The Leftfield Collection’s experimental indie-game lineup at Rezzed games convention in London earlier this year. Developer 3-Fold Games hopes to provide a sensitive and emotive portrayal of dementia.

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6 June 2018, 6:00 am

Who are we to judge the lives that people with dementia are living? | Letters

Readers respond to Polly Toynbee’s piece about dementia and quality of life for those with the disease

After 35 years working with people with dementia, and having a father who has had Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years, I find it hard to be certain that I know what people with dementia are thinking and if they judge life in the same way as before they had dementia (Why do we keep people alive against their wishes?, 29 May). Their lives are certainly different from ours and what theirs once was, but are they “empty husks”? Katharine Whitehorn is no longer a journalist, mother, friend, etc, and my father is no longer a veteran, great-grandfather etc; they can no longer recall any of that, and it is distressing for us who remember them as such to see that and the loss of their ability to care for themselves, but is it equally distressing for them? What is their experience of this new reality? That is a much harder question because we can only observe from the outside.

The people I’ve seen seem to have very varying experiences of dementia. Some appear very distressed, others relatively happy, and this experience can appear to vary greatly both from person to person and from day to day for an individual, much like life does for the rest of us. I had a trip to accident and emergency with my father which covered many hours and which at the time we both found upsetting, yet later he recalled it as trip to an interesting exhibition while I recalled trauma.
Dr Chris Allen
Consultant clinical psychologist and dementia lead, Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead, Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

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31 May 2018, 4:42 pm

The Guardian view on tax and the NHS: honesty is overdue | Editorial

Politicians of all stripes have for too long avoided confronting hard truths about rising demand for health services and how to meet the cost

There isn’t much about last year’s general election that Theresa May is in a hurry to revisit, least of all the plan to reform social care by a mechanism that came to be known as the “dementia tax”. The pitch was poor, but the concept deserved a fairer hearing. Outside the partisan frenzy of a campaign, it might have started a necessary conversation about long-term funding to meet the costs of an ageing population.

New research published today lays bare the challenge. A model developed by the Health Foundation, a charity, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies anticipates demand for spending on adult social care to rise by 3.9% a year over the next 15 years. Over the same period, the population over the age of 65 is expected to increase by 4.4 million; and the number over 85 by 1.3 million.

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23 May 2018, 11:01 pm

How to square the circle of social care funding | Letters

Readers respond to a Polly Toynbee article and to a supplement on dementia

Polly Toynbee points to the dilemma facing politicians over paying for social care (The social care crisis drags on, thanks to May’s cowardice, 22 May). The legitimate human desire to pass on one’s hard-earned wealth – in the vast majority of cases one’s house – to the next generation clashes with the legitimate need for the state to draw on that wealth to pay for social care.

The case often put by my Leeds constituents was “We’ve paid for our house so why should we not be entitled to pass it on to our son or daughter.” The huge flaw in this argument is that the current value of the house to be passed on is way above what the person paid for it decades before, even including the addition of general inflation.

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23 May 2018, 4:42 pm

Are dementia-friendly communities the answer to isolation and stigma? | Claire Goodman

More than 260 communities in the UK are listed as dementia friendly. A new tool reviews whether they’re meeting their aims

There are estimated to be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. People with dementia, and those who support them, can easily become isolated because of the stigma and anxiety a diagnosis can provoke in themselves and those around them.

Related: What makes a dementia-friendly community? Respect, collaboration and support

For some, the measure of a successful dementia-friendly community was what happened in everyday encounters

Related: Making care homes and services dementia friendly

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23 May 2018, 9:23 am

Rigorous exercise does not halt dementia decline, study concludes

Keeping active helps prevent the onset of dementia, but once the disease has taken hold, working out more does nothing to slow its progress

Moderate to more intense exercise does not help people with dementia and may even make it worse, according to a major study which had hoped to find it slowed down the progress of the disease so that gym sessions could be offered as treatment by the NHS.

Regular exercise and an active life are thought to help prevent or delay dementia, and some small studies have been done in dementia patients with positive results.

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16 May 2018, 10:30 pm

Sinclair Lough obituary

My friend and former colleague Sinclair Lough, who has died aged 62 following a stroke, was a clinical psychologist who specialised in the care of older people.

I first met Sinclair at the Faculty of the Psychology of Older People conference in Birmingham in 2000, where he was giving a talk on frontotemporal dementia. This was in the days before PowerPoint and Sinclair was struggling with a projector, but it quickly became apparent that he was more than able to talk about the subject without the slides.

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16 May 2018, 3:32 pm

Tawel Fan scandal: inquiry rejects dementia abuse claims

New investigation described as a whitewash after it fails to uncover institutional abuse

An inquiry into the care of dementia patients on a troubled mental health ward in north Wales has been described as a “whitewash” after it said there was no institutional abuse.

The findings of an in-depth investigation into the treatment of patients on Tawel Fan ward at Glan Clwyd hospital in Denbighshire, contradicted those of an earlier inquiry.

Related: Welsh health board put in special measures amid human rights concerns

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3 May 2018, 5:16 pm

Some antidepressants linked to dementia risk

Scientists say doctors should consider weaning patients with depression, Parkinsons or bladder problems off anticholinergic drugs

Some antidepressants and bladder medicines could be linked to dementia, according to a team of scientists who are calling for doctors to think about “de-prescribing” them where possible.

Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, which are also prescribed for pain and to help with sleeping, and one of the SSRI class, paroxetine (also known as Seroxat), are implicated by the largest ever study to look at this possible risk.

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25 April 2018, 10:30 pm

Dementia patients restrained with controversial techniques – report

Methods such as raising bed bars and putting walking aids out of reach leave elderly people stressed, says government-funded research

Hospital staff are sometimes confining patients with dementia to bed through controversial “containment and restraint” techniques, new government-funded research reveals.

The findings, paid for by the National Institute for Health Research, reveal that nurses and healthcare assistants are raising the siderails of beds and tucking bedsheets tightly around patients with dementia, reducing their mobility. Others are prevented from getting up by their walking frames being put out of reach or by being sedated with drugs. The techniques are used, say the researchers, because of an exaggerated fear that patients will fall if left to move around wards freely. The study says the tactics lead to the “dehumanisation” of patients, leaving them angry and highly stressed and worsening their already poor health.

Related: Shops, cafes and round-the-clock care: life in a ‘dementia village’

Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, health spending increased by an average of 1.2% above inflation and increases are due to continue in real terms at a similar rate until the end of this parliament. This is far below the annual inflation-proof growth rate that the NHS enjoyed before 2010 of almost 4% stretching back to the 1950s. As budgets tighten, NHS organisations have been struggling to live within their means. In the financial year 2015-16, acute trusts recorded a deficit of £2.6bn. This was reduced to £800m last year, though only after a £1.8bn bung from the Department of Health, which shows the deficit remained the same year on year.

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21 April 2018, 11:55 am

Care Home Open Day is a chance to showcase the best of care work

Homes around the country will open up their doors this weekend – giving the public a chance to learn about the sector and its workforce

Care Home Open Day is an opportunity for older people and their families to get to know the homes in their area, but it’s also so much more. On a deeper level, throwing open the doors of care homes across the UK – though they are actually open year-round – invites the public to gain a better understanding of older people and get a real sense of the social care sector and its workforce. Educating people on both these elements and correcting misconceptions is, I believe, extremely important.

By 2030, one in five Britons will be over the age of 65 and an estimated 1.1 million people will be living with dementia. It is crucial that perceptions of older people change, because too often they are being written off.

Related: Care Home Open Day: celebrating an undervalued sector – in pictures

Related: This national care home open day, we need to improve perceptions of residential care

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20 April 2018, 11:39 am

Thousands of patients to get personalised NHS budgets

Around 350,000 people could soon qualify for right to select and pay for treatments through bespoke care plan

Hundreds of thousands of people with mental health conditions and physical disabilities could be given the option of a personalised NHS budget for their own care needs under government proposals.

People with learning difficulties and dementia are among around 350,000 who could have the right to select and pay for treatments that improve their health and wellbeing through a bespoke care plan agreed with medical professionals. For children and people unable to manage the money, parents or carers will be able to manage the budget.

Related: Why are personal budgets not used more in mental health?

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15 April 2018, 11:18 pm