When we think of dementia, we think of memory loss, but that simplifies a lot. For starters, most people have heard of Alzheimer's, but there are other types of dementia.
They can affect reading and writing, movement, and even the ability to follow conversations.
There can also be changes in behavior, mood and attitude. As Lynne Wallis shows in her mother's story in this week's Mail on Sunday Health section, dementia can completely transform a person. Doctors have problems with diagnosis, especially the wound.
There is no cure, and there are very few ways to reliably slow down the inevitable progression of these diseases.
All of these things can make patients and their families even more confused.
But that does not mean that modern medicine cannot help, on the contrary. With that in mind, I'm trying to answer some of your vital questions about dementia.
When we think of dementia, we think of memory loss, but that simplifies a lot. For starters, most people have heard of Alzheimer's, but there are other types of dementia. (File image)
I've been worrying about my 68-year-old mother for a while because it didn't seem to be her. She was even caught in the act of theft. We are concerned about dementia, but the results of the memory test are normal and the doctor says there is nothing wrong. But I know there are.
Memory loss is just one aspect of dementia. These diseases can also cause personality changes.
In the most common types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease, memory loss first comes and then behavioral changes occur later. But about five percent of people with dementia will have frontotemporal dementia. The most important characteristics are behavior: loss of inhibitions, change of sympathy and dislike, inappropriate social behavior and unusual rituals. Memory loss comes later.
Symptoms such as those described here should be discussed with your GP, as well as any history of depression or mini-stroke. Other tests and a brain scan – MRI – will probably be required.
My husband has dementia. I often feel completely overwhelmed by everything and feel sad. I feel bad when I talk about myself because he is the one who is sick. But on bad days, I don’t seem to be able to cope and, I hate to admit it, I want to escape to the hills. Is this normal?
Absolutely. If you don't feel that way, it would be abnormal. Every caregiver role is incredibly stressful no matter what the situation.
You mourn for a partner, fear for the future and daily weariness of worry. It is a huge burden to carry.
I urge all those who feel this way to register with their doctor and investigate the assistance available. There are counseling services in many areas to talk about how you feel.
There may also be social or caregiver support. A UK charity (carersuk.org) also offers great advice.
More by Dr. Ellie Cannon for Sunday Mail …
I was diagnosed at 67 years oldsed two years ago with dementia. She was relatively active, but now rarely leave the house. After reading that this exercise was good for dementia, I tried to suggest her walks, but she refused. What would you suggest?
Exercise is really important: it reduces isolation, builds confidence and bone strength, and can even improve memory and slow down your decline. It is worth exploring what is available in your area – for example, tai chi or special courses for seniors.
Your local authority will be able to tell you what is available, and there may be a local budget for a "social prescription" that deserves to be examined by your doctor. This would allow him to go to the appropriate session at no cost.
Gardening is an option as it involves exercise and safe movements. And exercise can be done without leaving home – use her favorite music to dance a little every day.
The Alzheimer Society (alzheimers.org.uk) has great ideas for practicing sitting.
They see my father at something called a memory clinic. No one said the word "dementia" but I think it does. Would I be informed that this is the case?
We refer patients to memory clinics for the diagnosis of dementia as well as for treatment. Unless dementia is suspected, staff will usually fire patients. Some patients have memory impairment caused by treatable illnesses, such as vitamin B12 deficiency.
Accordingly, dementia is not easy to diagnose. Determining what dementia a patient has (there are six main types) can take time as the results of the analysis return.
Until staff have all the information, they will not diagnose and use the word "dementia." That should tell you, but if you haven't, you have to ask if you have all the information.
Dementia is not easy to diagnose. Determining what dementia a patient has (there are six main types) can take time as the results of the analysis return. (File image)
We had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and a friend told me to participate in a clinical trial to benefit from new treatments. How can they do this – and are there risks?
The surest way to do this is to join Dementia Research (join dementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk). It's like matchmaking services: sign up by registering online, and you'll be notified of relevant employment studies.
These may include drug tests, scans or even genetic testing. But it's important that your expectations are realistic: it's certainly not a guaranteed way to get new treatments.
Tests may include, for example, existing drugs.
Reduce your risk
Unjust hearing loss is thought to increase the risk of developing dementia.
My father died earlier this year of dementia. When I realized how difficult a situation can be, I'm afraid I might reach it when I grow up. Can we inherit dementia and can I test for dementia?
Genetics play only a minor role in dementia. Most people who develop Alzheimer's do not have a known genetic mutation. There is a small group of people who develop Alzheimer's disease at a younger age, which may be genetically and family related. But for most of us, it's not just about the genes, it's the combination of risk factors.
Diabetes and smoking appear to increase risk as well as lack of exercise and loneliness.
Dementia was diagnosed with my husband earlier this year and I am too afraid to ask his expert how much time he has left.
This is a difficult question to answer. On average, people with dementia live between three and nine years after diagnosis. The range is very large because there are many types of dementia and, of course, it depends on the health of the background.
During this survival period, it is also difficult to assess the course of the disease. We are talking about early, moderate or severe stages of dementia and each of these stages lasts approximately two years before progressing.
Initially, planning is important: finances, care and health. This would include a power of attorney registration (gov.uk/power-of-autor) and an advanced care directive – a living will.
Visit compassionindying.org.uk for more details.
My mother was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago. Is there a special diet to help you maintain a healthy brain?
It is important that people with dementia consume enough calories. Affected individuals tend to lose weight due to changes in appetite and behavior. They are also very sensitive to dehydration if they forget to drink. It is a priority to eat regularly.
Do you have a question for DR ELLIE?
Email to [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, Derry Street 2, London, W8 5TT.
Dr. Ellie can only respond in a general context and cannot answer individual cases or provide personal answers.
If you have health problems, always consult your own doctor.
My wife has been suffering from type 2 diabetes for a long time and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. His memory is gradually deteriorating and it is increasingly difficult to manage these two conditions. What should we do?
It's tricky, but actually very common. Type 2 diabetes in middle or later age increases the risk of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease by 50%. Helping a doctor in general to solve this problem is crucial.
The medication regimen should be simple but sufficient to control diabetes: a sub-box with sections indicating which pills you should take at what time of day it will be necessary.
A dietitian's recommendation is also helpful – it would help you establish a diet for your wife that is beneficial for diabetes but can benefit her despite her dementia.
How the song brings a smile back to Barbara Windsor's face
Last month, Scott Mitchell, husband of Barbara Windsor, said her memories were "coming back" when she sang
Music plays an important role in many life events.
Almost everyone has a song or two that reminds them of a special moment – and that can often be associated with strong emotions.
Last month, Scott Mitchell, husband of Barbara Windsor, said her memories were "coming back" when she sang.
Five years ago, an experienced actress was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but Scott said the music evokes happiness among 82-year-olds.
That's so important.
Managing dementia is not only about the care and the pill, it is fun and gives patients and carers time to have fun – this is clearly clearly therapeutic by Barbara.
And it's also important that she and Scott have fun together, which is all too often dismissed with dementia.