This post is peppered with forget-me-nots
because Alzheimer’s is the thief of time
stealing memories with no compunction at all…
Dementia Awareness Week is the 17th to 23rd May and this post is painful to write because Alzheimer’s has made me very aware of what it can do. It’s stolen my mother and there was so much left unsaid – things that now will never be said and that leaves regrets and resentment in its wake.
Quoting from The Alzheimer’s Society website: The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.
I don’t know my mother’s actual diagnosis, there are several types of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but my dear father has always handled it with the ostrich approach, with his head pretty much in the sand. I understand this – it’s tough to see your loved one fade away in front of you and even tougher when they have no idea who you are. She has a professional diagnosis though and is on medication but it gets worse and there’s nothing to stop it.
For my parents’ privacy and respect I won’t go into their circumstances, my mother has many more illnesses and conditions, and everyone has different situations when this disease hits. But awareness is vital and help for the afflicted and the carers absolutely essential. The Alzheimer’s Society, whose symbol has also been the forget-me-not flower since 2012, is one of the first places to go for advice and they are wonderful, and Age UK have helped too, but Social Services and NHS help is also inevitable and crucial. Assessments need to be made and help given. I can’t report on the effectiveness of Social Services, as the planned assessment was cancelled and I haven’t yet heard back from them. Be prepared for long waiting periods.
This is a disease that breaks hearts, and it’s on the rise. So is there anything we can do to prevent it?
To try to thwart dementia the NHS recommends we should: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t drink too much alcohol, stop smoking (if you smoke), make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
This is pretty much blanket advice and I shrug a little, this is the stock advice for a healthy life, not just dementia prevention.
What can you really do to help keep dementia at bay?
Analysis by Age UK suggested that lifestyle was responsible for 76% of changes in the brain and that people could go some way to avoiding the disease by adopting or quitting certain habits. Taking regular physical exercise, eating a Mediterranean diet, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation were all found to decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In addition, preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity was also found to reduce the risk.
I have also heard that learning another language, drinking raw fruit and veg, reducing stress and meditating, running 15 miles a week, laughing more, sleeping more and lowering your sugar intake can all help.
Learning a language, laughing, keeping your brain active and engaged all help create new neuro pathways in your brain and helps grow new brain cells, therefore keeping the brain busy and fully functioning. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells and once destroyed they cannot be recovered. Thus you see memory loss and lost skills that will never be salvaged.
These are ideas and helps, and current medication can halt the progress of Alzheimer’s to a degree too. However, more and more people are being diagnosed and current figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will result in over one million sufferers 1,142,677 in 2025.
I wish I had the answers to Alzheimers and Dementia – but I don’t which is why I’ve linked The Alzheimer’s Society, but I’d like to finish on two positives:
Five Things You Should Know About Dementia from The Alzheimer’s Society:
It’s not a natural part of ageing
It’s caused by diseases of the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s
It’s not just about losing your memory – it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks
It’s possible to live well with dementia
There’s more to a person than the dementia
They suggest we:
Spend more time with friends and relatives who are living with dementia (I can testify the carer will need support and friends, dementia in a partner is lonely, frustrating and terribly heartbreaking)
Learn more about dementia and maybe become a Dementia Friend
Volunteer and Fundraise…which brings me to my last thing…
Bekah, my daughter, having seen the effects of Alzheimer’s first hand, has decided to do a Tandem Sky Dive and raise money for The Alzheimer’s Society. She is planning to leap from a plane and parachute on the 10th September and needs sponsors to help her achieve her goal!
Please think about supporting her and those suffering with this tragic disease if you can. Any funds raised online on her Just Giving Page go directly to The Alzheimer’s Society, but she will need physical donations which go to the jump and the charity, so if your know her personally please ask her for her sponsor form and do it direct!
Thank you so much in advance, anything we can do to help those suffering and fund research and help is imperative and very much appreciated!