It seems every day we are hearing about a new awareness day. Something we can all talk about on Twitter, whether it’s National Doughnut Week (it’s a thing, we checked) or Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a chance for us all to feel connected and like we’re coming together as a community for important matters. Or for baked goods. However, sometimes a # for awareness isn’t quite enough for the issues that really matter. That’s why The Alzheimer’s Society have deemed this week (21-27 May 2018) ‘Dementia Action Week’. When it comes to dementia, we don’t just want people to be aware. We want action.
Dementia is not actually a specific illness, it’s actually a ‘syndrome’, meaning a collection of symptoms which are related to declining brain function. It affects over 850,000 people in the UK, with the number of people with dementia only increasing as we live longer. The terrible double-edged sword of modern medicine helping us avoid early deaths like in the Middle-Ages is that with age comes dementia (at least it does to 1 in 6 over 80). Dementia involves memory problems, mood swings, trouble finding the right words and a breakdown in cognitive ability (the way we process information). It is incredibly hard for the person with dementia, but also greatly affects the lives of those around them and can frequently require professional care, either at home or in a residential care home.
There are many different types of dementia; with the most common being Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. So, while many (some of our team included) mistakenly assume Alzheimer’s is a different illness to Dementia, it’s actually just an illness where dementia symptoms manifest. We talk about them as if they were separate entities and when we see #dementia you don’t naturally think #alzheimers too. Which is why we need to stop worrying about whether we’re including ourselves in a hashtag and focus more on the actions we are taking to help the cause taking over social media.
For dementia, there are many things we can all do to support those with dementia or their loved ones; and the great thing is, it doesn’t even have to be a grand gesture costing money and lots of time. Small actions can have a major impact on lives affected by dementia. The Dementia Action Alliance are encouraging people to become “Dementia Friends” with sessions in libraries across the country, since “by becoming a friend, people gain a better understanding of dementia and the small things that can be done to make a difference”. You can show your support by having a cup of tea with a neighbour, friend or relative; finding out information that might help the patient or their family; or even simply sharing your dementia experience with others so that, slowly, we all understand this ‘syndrome’ better.
One organisation that is actively supporting taking action for dementia is BRACE (who fund research towards treatments and a cure for dementia) and they recommend 6 possible ways to show support and work towards a cure:
- Sign up to a challenge event
- Request a collection box for your business or workplace
- Set up a direct debit to help fund world class research
- Leave a legacy to BRACE
- Host a coffee morning
- Share your dementia story with others
From our team to yours, we hope you all take an action in one way or another to support Dementia Action Week this year. We have all seen or heard about the pain dementia causes and it’s time to work together to help. Living longer shouldn’t mean a worse quality of life, and it’s up to us to make things right.