This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Dementia newsfeed.
There’s a silent crisis in our midst. Often cunning and stealthy like Grandmother’s Footsteps, sometimes swift and brutal, dementia is all around us. One in eight people die of it. In the UK, a person is diagnosed with it every three minutes. Yet we are still collectively failing to acknowledge this self-demolishing illness, which is now the largest cause of death in England and Wales and the one we most fear. Why?
It is refreshing to see an article about the effects of social activity in preventing dementia on the front page of the Guardian (Social life may lower the risk of dementia, 3 August). The sad fact is that this has been known for many years, including examples such as the Nun Study, which examined the effects of ageing on a group of Roman Catholic nuns in the United States.
So much research on either the cause or the prevention of dementia is too narrowly focused; too much attention is paid to the brain and not enough to the whole person. Research in the arts has already shown how meaningful cultural and social activity keeps people healthier for longer. What we need now is not more research on brains, but increasing investment to maintain and develop our cultural resources and encourage wider participation in the arts. This would help to build social connections between people of all ages, and prevent a host of diseases, including dementia.
Experts call for urgent action to tackle ‘biggest health crisis of our time’
Dementia is the biggest health crisis of our time, experts have said, as statistics show the condition was the primary cause of death in England and Wales last year.
Almost one in eight people died from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, with the proportion increasing for the fourth consecutive year – up from 12.7% in 2017 to 12.8% in 2018. There were 541,589 deaths registered in England and Wales last year, the highest total since 1999.
Actor, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is supporting calls for a £2.4bn fund to be created
Dame Barbara Windsor has called on Boris Johnson to ease the dementia care funding crisis to better support the growing number of people being diagnosed with the condition.
The 82-year-old actor is backing an open letter from the Alzheimer’s Society, together with her husband, Scott Mitchell, and is urging the public to sign it before it is delivered to 10 Downing Street in September.
Being socially active in 50s and 60s linked to lower risk of illness later in life, researchers say
Being socially active in your 50s and 60s may help lower the risk of developing dementia in later life, a study has found.
Researchers studied data that tracked more than 10,000 people from 1985 to 2013. The participants answered a questionnaire every five years about the frequency of their social contact with friends and relatives. They were also subject to cognitive testing, and electronic health records were searched for dementia diagnoses.
Defining and delivering quality care in a post-austerity era is a challenge, but users’ experiences can shape policy and practice
“Funding matters, of course it does, but the thing people really care about is the quality of the care that they receive,” Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, told the recent Local Government Association annual conference.
What is quality? How do you define it, how do you measure it and, most importantly, how do you provide it?
Protein tau may spread more rapidly in female brains than males’, adding to range of factors
The reason women appear to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men might be due to a number of genetic, anatomical and even social influences, researchers have suggested.
Recent figures show about 65% of those with living with dementia in the UK are women, with a similar statistic seen in the US for Alzheimer’s disease, while dementia is the leading cause of death for women in England. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of the types of dementia, but the most common form.
Eight-year study suggests genetic predisposition does not make condition inevitable
A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking and watching alcohol intake could reduce the risk of dementia – even in those with a genetic predisposition to such conditions, researchers say.
Recent figures suggest there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and it is the leading cause of death for women in England. Many studies have indicated that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing such conditions. A recent report suggested a third of cases could be prevented by tackling factors such as exercise, blood pressure, hearing and diet. In May, the World Health Organisation released guidelines on how to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle.
I had to give up my job as a doctor but I have adapted well – and I am still busy, sociable and cheerful
It’s been almost a decade now since I was visiting my patients and was startled when one started hugging and kissing me. A couple of weeks later, I realised that the woman was a friend I’d known for 20 years. That was how it all started.
When I was in my late 50s I began to notice things weren’t normal. At the time I was working as an executive partner in a general practice in Southampton. I started getting lost: I couldn’t remember how to get to the branch surgery, how to get home, and it was frightening.
It was during a conference that I realised I could no longer continue working. I looked around and said: “Right, shall we start with introductions?”. I turned to the person next to me who replied: “But Jennifer, I’ve worked with you for years.” By the time they got to the end of the room I realised that something was seriously wrong.
I had to resign after that. My patients meant too much to me. I couldn’t even imagine having to go into court if something happened – like forgetting to put one decimal place on a prescription. Many people can still work when they have dementia but not in my job.
I diagnosed myself with dementia. The GP believed me, but because I was a well-regarded doctor, the consultant didn’t want to even consider it. He said: “There’s nothing the matter with you.” I asked for further testing by the neuropsychology professor and they thought I should see a consultant who specialised in younger onset dementia, which I did.
I am one of 50 million people globally living with dementia. About two thirds of that number have Alzheimer’s disease, just like me. Others have vascular dementia, mixed dementia, Lewy body dementia or frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). That community is likely to rise to about 152 million people by 2050. Every three seconds someone develops dementia.
Training care workers can help break the taboo about sexual relationships between residents
Frank and Mary loved each other’s company. They would sit together and hold hands. Both had dementia and were living in a care home. Their closeness made them happy and their families were delighted.
Mary wasn’t bothered when Frank called her by his wife’s name, nor that he began to intervene in her day-to-day life. They were besotted. He started sitting her on his knee, and, after a few drinks, they could be found canoodling in the corner.
Worldwide panel says it cannot recommend healthy people take ‘memory supplements’
Dietary supplements such as vitamins do nothing to boost brain health and are simply a waste of money for healthy people, experts have said.
According to figures from the US, sales of so-called “memory supplements” doubled between 2006 and 2015, reaching a value of $643m, while more than a quarter of adults over the age of 50 in the US regularly take supplements in an attempt to keep their brain in good health.
People living in one care village have worked with artists to learn new skills including sculpture, painting and dance
Residents at a care village in Cheshire have been exploring their creativity and trying out everything from expressive dance to sculpture and storytelling.
This spring, the Belong care village in Crewe organised an eight-week programme, which involved artists in residence delivering workshops for residents. The programme was part of three-year project, Where the Arts Belong, run in partnership with Liverpool’s Bluecoat centre for contemporary arts and Arts Council England. It aims to assess how to effectively bring art into care environments.
This series bringing 14 people with dementia together to run a restaurant is clear and compassionate, showing the power television has to mass-educate
We are entering the age of dementia. Individually, so many of us are now directly or, at the very smallest remove, affected by it. Culturally, first come the documentaries, of which there have been many, and then come the reality TV projects. A few weeks ago there was Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure, which saw the Line of Duty star, whose grandmother had the condition, investigating why and helping demonstrate how musicality can survive the brutal blows other skills and abilities cannot. Now, there is The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes (Channel 4).
Wendy Mitchell wrote a bestselling memoir about having Alzheimer’s. Here she describes how the disease has changed her relationship with food
Some days there is not much that I remember. When the fog comes down, I don’t know what day it is. I don’t know the time, or even the year. Those are the very worst days and, thankfully, they are still relatively few. But on good days, my memory is challenging. You can tell me a secret and I’ll always keep it because I simply won’t remember. But one thing I never forget is that food used to mean so much more to me than it does now.
We think of food as fuel. At its heart, that is all it is. That is all it is to me now. These days I even have to set alarms on my iPad to remind me to eat – the part of my brain that feels hunger stopped working a long time ago. Yet, when you no longer get pleasure from food, you realise it is so much more than that. It’s how we show love as a parent, it’s how we bond with friends, it’s an apology for saying the wrong thing, it’s a welcome to the neighbourhood.
I made simple suppers that only required two hobs, then one, until I realised I couldn’t use the cooker any more
New guidance means those with conditions such as dementia or anxiety may be eligible for parking permit
People with invisible disabilities can now apply to use blue badge parking permits, the government has announced.
The Department for Transport (DfT) issued the new guidance on Saturday, advising that those with conditions such as dementia or anxiety disorders could be eligible for the scheme, which allows people to park closer to their destination.
‘When you confessed you were barricading yourself in your bedroom at night, we knew you couldn’t go on living alone’: the letter you always wanted to write
Last Friday was one of the most profound days of my life. You remembered you were going to try out a new living arrangement and had packed some carrier bags to be helpful. DVDs were mixed with food waste and clothes, but we sorted out what you needed. I worried about how you would react when we arrived at the home and saw people having lunch, some being fed, everyone a stranger. But you bravely took your seat at the table and tried to start a conversation about Elvis.
That no one answered you breaks my heart but, like you, they were hard-of-hearing. Still, you ate lots and later told me you liked this “hospital hotel”. That day and the next, as I hung around while you settled in, I learned what love looks like from the “family members” (staff). They explained to me that you are now more a “feeling person” than a “thinking person”, and that what you need most is love.
Study finds calcium deposits are triggered by molecule produced by damaged cells
The mysterious mechanism behind the hardening of arteries may have been solved, researchers have revealed, in a study that also suggests the first potential preventive drug for the condition linked to heart attack, dementia and stroke.
Arteries harden as calcium becomes deposited in the elastic walls of the vessels, a process that happens as we age and is exacerbated for patients with diabetes or kidney disease. Stiffening can also occur as calcium becomes deposited in fatty plaques in the arteries – a condition called atherosclerosis.
Kristof Bilsen’s documentary focuses on Pomm, who looks after Europeans with Alzheimer’s in Thailand while facing problems of her own
A documentary about the pain of mothers losing a connection with their children might not sound like one of the most uplifting films of the year, but Kristof Bilsen’s film is a radical achievement: a love letter to loss, sacrifice and yearning. It questions how we care for elderly loved ones, makes provocative contrasts between east and west in the economics of medicine, and, with a central character who’s pure charisma, this is intimate observational documentary-making of a high standard.
Pomm is a carer in Thailand for westerners with Alzheimer’s. She gives her patient one-to-one care, which comprises singing, joking, hugging and confiding, as well as the basics of cleaning and welfare. This is more personal attention than would be possible in her patients’ home countries, and though it doesn’t come cheap, families feel it’s worth the expense of sending someone halfway across the world for it. When we first meet her, Pomm’s patient is Elisabeth, who can communicate only in squeaks and other noises, but seems calm and content.
Every shift is a constant rush while facing abuse from residents. Still, I’m struggling to pay the bills. Why is our work so devalued?
As workers in dementia care, we are carrying out some of the most hidden, difficult and under-recognised work in this country. The aged care royal commission must examine how the current system is impacting those of us working in acute dementia care, and talk about the heartbreaking effects of funding cuts to dementia patients and the constant stream of challenges we face.
There are times when dementia residents are not treated as human beings with feelings and emotions
Exclusive: Comprehensive analysis finds harm from head to toe, including dementia, heart and lung disease, fertility problems and reduced intelligence