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Dementia Awareness Week: What are dementia symptoms and what is Alzheimer’s?

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ementia Action Awareness week is run by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness and to encourage people to “act on dementia.”

New research shows that one in four people with dementia have symptoms for two years before they get a diagnosis, as symptoms are often disregarded as normal signs of ageing.

The Alzheimer’s Society wants to encourage people to learn about the signs of dementia and to know when to seek a diagnosis so that they can seek guidance and support.

This year, the Alzheimer’s Society has published a guide explaining common symptoms of dementia and how they differ from normal signs of ageing. The campaign’s key message is “it’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill.”

When is Dementia Action Awareness week and what is the theme?

This year, Dementia Action Awareness takes place from May 16-22. The theme of this year’s week is diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s Society chose this theme due to a sustained drop in dementia diagnosis rates for the first time ever.

The aim of the theme is to encourage people to “be able to understand and recognise potential dementia symptoms, come to us for guidance and support, feel empowered to take the next step, and improve the diagnosis process for both them and healthcare professionals.”

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Dementia is caused by a disease that damages the brain. Its symptoms include memory loss, confusion and needing help with daily tasks, problems with language and understanding, and changes in behaviour.

The Alzheimer’s society says “When a person has dementia, this worsening in mental abilities is much more serious than the normal changes that people experience as they get older.

“The changes may be small to start with, but become more noticeable. For a health professional to diagnose dementia, a person’s symptoms must be significantly affecting their daily life.

“This means having difficulties with completing daily tasks about the house, in the community or at work.”

Symptoms of dementia are different from normal signs of ageing.

For example, someone without dementia may forget something they were told a while ago, while someone with dementia may forget something they were told recently and may repeatedly ask the same questions.

Someone experiencing normal signs of ageing may struggle to focus on a number of tasks at once, while someone with dementia may struggle to focus on just one task.

Dementia symptoms will vary depending on the type of dementia someone has. For example, rare forms of dementia, such as dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can cause hallucinations, inappropriate language or behaviour, and problems staying alert.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects the brain and is the most common cause of dementia. The second most common cause of dementia is vascular dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease causes proteins in the brain to build up and form abnormal structures that affect the connection between the nerve cells. Eventually, nerve cells will die and brain tissue will be lost.

People with Alzheimer’s also have fewer “chemical messengers” that help send signals between the cells. However, some drug treatments can help boost the levels of the chemical messengers, which can help with some symptoms.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. This means that over time, more parts of the brain are damaged, and more symptoms will develop and get lost.

The Alzheimer’s Society says: “More than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease and this figure is set to rise.”

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of dementia, you can speak to the Alzheimer’s Society for support and guidance. They will be able to offer you practical advice on what next steps to take, and what to expect from the diagnosis process.

Head to https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ or call the Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456.

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