This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.
Enduring myths lead to an undue anguish and reluctance to seek help for dementia. If you’re aware of them, prevention and delay are possible
A fear of dementia looms large in the minds of many, and understandably so. It is a condition with potentially devastating effects – incurable, progressive and which threatens to rob us of the essence of who we are. It is also a condition surrounded by unhelpful myths, however, and our bleak view is often unjustified. Prevention or delay are possible, and much can be done to help even if dementia develops.
The first myth is that memory loss is an inevitable part of dementia. This is not the case and may lead to under-recognition of the condition. Memory loss is the archetypal symptom of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of dementia – but dementia can be due to numerous disease processes and these may lead to other symptoms. As an example, frontotemporal dementia may present first with changes in personality and behaviour, or with language problems. Vascular dementia symptoms vary according to which part of the brain has compromised blood supply. Any change in cognitive function – not just memory, but language, social cognition, visuospatial abilities and the like – should prompt you to seek medical advice.
Hopkins gives a moving, Oscar-winning turn as a man with dementia in a film full of intelligent performances, disorienting time slips and powerful theatrical effects
“Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!” says King Lear, a plea which is overwhelmingly sad because it can never be heard by anyone with the power to grant it. Anthony Hopkins, who played Lear in Richard Eyre’s production for the BBC, now delivers another performance as an ailing patriarch with a favourite daughter and nowhere to stay, in a film directed by Florian Zeller, and adapted by Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s own award-winning stage play. There is unbearable heartbreak in this movie, for which Hopkins has become history’s oldest best actor Oscar-winner, and also genuine fear, like something you might experience watching Roman Polanski’s Repulsion or M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense.
There has been a 27% increase over four years in avoidable illnesses and injuries caused by failures in care
Tens of thousands of people with dementia are taken to hospital each year for emergency admission because inadequate social care has left them unprotected from infections, falls and dehydration, an investigation has found.
There has been a 27% increase over a four-year period in avoidable illnesses and injuries caused by failures in care for those living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, which sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all NHS trusts.
Those who communicate online alongside traditional methods show less of a decline in episodic memory
Defiant in the face of Covid isolation, older people across the country ventured online, often for the first time, and mastered technology: reading bedtime stories to grandchildren over Zoom and holding book clubs on Microsoft Teams.
Now a UK study has shown that their determination to access and enjoy the internet’s social possibilities could have had another advantage: protecting them against dementia.
Dementia care | Enemy aliens | Patricia Brown | New name for Labour | Cooling towers
Having cared for my husband, who has dementia, for the past three years, I found music calming (Alzheimer’s patients and hospital staff prescribed music in NHS trial, 5 May), but to fill a day it was essential to get out. Latterly, it took an afternoon to get out to buy an ice-cream, but it was so rewarding as he was not anxious – he was focusing on walking, with the help of his wheelchair, to get his ice-cream. Exercise and fresh air kept him fit, and me sane.
St Andrews, Fife
• Ethnic Italians in the UK may have been classified as “enemy aliens” in wartime (Letters, 10 May), but I still have the “alien registration document” that my father, also fully documented as a resistance fighter in the siege of Warsaw, had to carry in this country until 1960, obliging him to register and have it stamped at the nearest police station wherever he lived.
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
Nicci Gerrard, through her writings in this newspaper and lead role in John’s Campaign, has done more than just effect yet another government U-turn (“Why did the government take so long to back down on this care home cruelty?”, Comment). She highlighted the patchwork of care homes covering more than 450,000 residents and their loved ones and how they had become “jails of enforced loneliness”, where Covid was not the only killer. That jolted me into connecting with other patient carers to channel and help assuage the pain of suffering in isolation, hitherto without mutual support and always in dread of that final telephone call.
I have great admiration for Nicci and her dogged determination to prove that “our campaign is not over” but her conclusion that “bereft families can finally open the door to step out together into the world” is tragically not the case for bereaved families like mine, who will have to live the pain of “unredeemable time” after receiving that call when I lost my darling wife in a prison of enforced loneliness.
Yesterday, at the 11th hour, the government caved in. Knowing that proceedings were being issued against it this week by John’s Campaign (of which I am co-founder), it announced that people in care homes need no longer self-isolate for 14 days after a visit out. It’s a rare chink of light for those who live in residential homes and their families and a victory for charities and campaigning groups, including John’s Campaign.
But the question remains: why was this singularly nasty, cruel and bizarre piece of guidance ever issued in the first place? How was it deemed acceptable that a whole section of people should be imprisoned in the place called “home” and deprived of their liberty?
We have never felt that government lawyers wanted to improve the wretched situation of those in care homes, only that they wanted to win
NHS figures for England show initial assessment and monitoring have both fallen sharply since the start of the pandemic
Experts have warned of backlogs of undiagnosed dementia cases and worsening standards of care after official figures revealed a collapse in assessing and monitoring patients in England during the pandemic.
NHS data shows the number of people who were assessed for dementia has fallen to less than half the level before the pandemic – 10,535 in February 2021 compared to 23,392 in February 2020.
- Taylor tells MPs it is ‘unfair’ to say union was slow to act
- Alan Shearer criticised for not appearing before committee
Gordon Taylor has denied being “asleep at the wheel” over the link between heading footballs, concussion and dementia – and told MPs that criticism of the Professional Footballers’ Association’s response over the past two decades was “unfair”.
Taylor – appearing in front of the the digital, culture, media and sport committee – also dismissed comments from the former Blackburn and Celtic striker Chris Sutton that he had “blood on his hands” because he had turned his back on the issue.
Early evidence suggests measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus such as Melbourne’s lockdown reduced the chances of other infections
The death rate of Australians with dementia fell during the Covid-19 pandemic as measures to contain the spread reduced the risk of other infections as well, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found.
The report, Dementia Deaths During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Australia, found the death rate was down during the first 10 months of 2020, with the difference particularly apparent during the winter months when deaths usually peak.
The AIHW looked at mortality data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to examine deaths among people who had dementia recorded on their death certificates between January and October 2020. Of the 858 people who died due to Covid-19 in that period, 30% had dementia.
UCL data of 10,000 volunteers shows cases 30% higher among those who slept poorly in their 50s, 60s and 70s
People who regularly sleep for six hours or less each night in middle age are more likely to develop dementia than those who routinely manage seven hours, according to a major study into the disease.
Researchers found a 30% greater risk of dementia in those who during their 50s, 60s and 70s consistently had a short night’s sleep, regardless of other risk factors such as heart and metabolic conditions and poor mental health.
Related: The dementia that can be cured
Katherine Heiny’s moving account of her mother’s dementia prompts David Weaver to write about his wife’s condition, and its effect on him
I could barely read the extract of Katherine Heiny’s book about her mother’s descent into Lewy body dementia (Weekend, 17 April). It is such a tragic condition; my wife has Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia, and has been in a care home for the past three years. She is looked after with great compassion by dedicated, professional staff, but despite 24-hour attention, she only weighs 42kg and is immobile.
Some days she is chatty and recognises me, but her speech is so distorted now that I can no longer understand her. The care staff have covered the walls in her room with photos of our four children and six grandchildren, and with cards and drawings, and most of the time she just sits and looks at them.
For the past year, the pandemic stopped novelist Katherine Heiny from seeing her mother. Now that she can, where will she start?
In Boolean logic, a syllogism is a valid deductive argument having two premises and a conclusion. (I know this because logic is the only even vaguely mathematical class I ever understood.) For example, apples are fruit; all fruit is delicious. Conclusion: apples are delicious.
Or in my case: I am eager to visit my mother; my mother has advanced dementia. Conclusion: I am eager to visit someone who won’t even know I am there. Is it a logical conclusion? Maybe not. Is it a valid one? Yes.
Lewy body dementia has seven stages, and my mother raced through them like a gifted student not content to plod
She doesn’t know my father died last November, and I know I won’t have the courage to tell her
I asked her what she’d remember about me, and she said, ‘How much you love to talk.’ But I only love to talk to those I love. Like her
Her performance in Elizabeth Is Missing won the veteran actress a Bafta and an Emmy – and she hasn’t missed dressing up for the virtual ceremonies
The British actor and former MP returned to the screen in 2019 after a 27-year break for the BBC One drama Elizabeth Is Missing. Her portrayal of Maud, a woman living with dementia, last year won her a Bafta TV award and an International Emmy for best actress.
Glenda Jackson is something of an awards ceremony veteran. Throughout her career, she has amassed an enviable range of statuettes: two best actress Academy Awards (one for Ken Russell’s notorious Women in Love, the other for A Touch of Class), a Golden Globe, several Emmys, Baftas and a Tony, among others. At one Oscars ceremony, she was introduced on to the stage by Frank Sinatra. But that, she says, was in the early days, “years before they became what they are now. Which are mainly fashion shows, aren’t they?”
José says he hasn’t been able to sleep since alleged assault, which was described as ‘cuddling’ in incident report
A man who walked in on his 70-year-old wife with dementia being allegedly sexually assaulted by a fellow resident at her Sydney aged care home has blamed under-staffing for failing to properly monitor residents.
The 75-year-old man, José, said he has not been able to sleep properly since the alleged 20 March assault on his wife, Shannon, and that he wants answers about why his wife was able to wander off alone down a corridor and into the man’s room.
People in care homes are being treated as if they are ‘different species’, says John’s Campaign
People living in care homes are being treated by Public Health England as if they are “different species”, according to a campaigner whose organisation has launched a challenge to a ban on residents making trips.
The action is being taken by John’s Campaign, which says official guidance fails to accurately express the law and to advise care homes on their legal obligations to people aged 65 and over.
The playwright takes us inside the mind of his late mother in a poignant audio play that dramatises her shifting sense of self
Anyone who has observed dementia at close quarters is likely to recognise the unspoken pain contained in Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical audio drama about his late mother’s Alzheimer’s. But rather than showing us the effects of Angela’s dementia on himself and his father, Ted, the playwright gives primacy to her inner voice and confusions, building a rich subjectivity despite the accompanying sadness.
This play is the first in a series for Sound Stage, an audio-digital theatre platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre that aims to give its audience the online experience of going to the theatre (with an interval and after-show discussions). Understated and melancholic, it has none of the brazenness of Ravenhill’s past work.
Angela is available online 26-28 March and 1-2 April.
- Researchers hail ‘gamechanger’ in head injury treatment
- Study was partly funded by Rugby Football Union
A new technology that could pave the way for an objective test to diagnose concussion at pitchside has been hailed as a “gamechanger” by researchers. The test, performed on saliva samples, has the potential to be used in high-impact sports such as elite rugby and football where head injuries are common, and also at grassroots level and in other areas of life.
The research team, led by the University of Birmingham and part‑funded by the Rugby Football Union, has published the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The identification of the biomarkers in saliva creates the possibility of a non-invasive clinical test for concussion.
- Footballer’s daughter delivers excoriating testimony
- Parliamentary committee told sport failed to protect players
Campaigners for action against neuro-degenerative disease in football have delivered excoriating testimony against the game’s authorities, with one telling a parliamentary committee: “Football doesn’t want to think it can be a killer, but I know it can because it’s on my dad’s death certificate.”
Dawn Astle, whose father, Jeff, died from dementia which coroners declared an “industrial disease” because of his years as a professional footballer, was one of several witnesses to appear at adigital, culture, media and sport select committee hearing into concussion in sport. She called current funding for research into the effects of heading the ball “a drop in the ocean” and demanded faster action in response to studies that already exist.
The inquiry into concussion feels woefully small and underresourced given what we now know about the dangers
On 11 November 2002, the South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh recorded a verdict of “death by industrial disease” in the case of the former England striker Jeff Astle who had died, aged 59, after years suffering with dementia. At that point there was already 30-odd years’ worth of anecdotal evidence that heading the ball caused brain trauma. The Astle verdict meant there was now an official recognition of a link. The Guardian called it a “landmark verdict”. An official at the Professional Footballers’ Association reassured the players, and public, that the PFA and the FA had “begun joint research” into how heading a football affects the brain.
“We cannot do anything about what has gone on in the past,” the spokesman said, “but maybe we can do something about the future.”
A lot changed in those last two decades, but the question of whether sport should have gone further, faster, remains