Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – now is the time to learn more about dementia and what support is available

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World Alzheimer’s Day was held last week, on 21 September, as part of World Alzheimer’s Month.

Councillor Beccy HopfenspergerThis year the theme is around the power of knowledge, encouraging people to do what they can to learn more about dementia and understand the changes in memory and behaviour, so people feel equipped and able to identify when and where they may can go for help and support.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. This means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, more symptoms develop, and they also get worse.

According the Alzheimer Society, more than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease and this figure is set to rise.

Sadly, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, combined with the stigma of dementia and the common misconception around memory loss being just part of getting old, means that dementia diagnosis rates are currently at a five-year low across the UK, which sadly means that tens of thousands of people across the country are currently living with undiagnosed dementia.

This means they don’t have access to the vital care and support that a diagnosis can bring and could risk ending up in crisis before making plans with their family and friends.

Typical early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include memory problems like regularly forgetting recent events, people's names, or familiar faces. Becoming increasingly repetitive, asking the same question multiple times.

Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd or unusual places. Confusion about the date or losing track of the time of day. People with the onset of dementia might also develop problems communicating or finding the right words.

If you recognise some of these symptoms, either in yourself or in a close friend or family member, book a visit with a GP as soon as possible. Whilst getting a diagnosis can be daunting all the evidence suggests it’s better to know.

Earlier this year, as part of Dementia Action Week, Alzheimer’s Society created and launched a new online symptoms checklist that can be printed off and taken with you to a GP appointment, to help talk about changes that might be due to dementia.

Unlocking early support is vital, as it opens a range of both practical and emotional support. This support can include people gaining access to the latest information and research, so they can know more about the disease and how it develops, access counselling and emotional wellbeing support, and potentially benefit from drug and non-drug treatments available to help manage the disease as it develops.

Alzheimers Society logoIt also allows them the opportunity to explain to family and friends the changes happening in their life. You can find out more information about their symptom checklist, along with a wealth of information and a range of help sheets about everything from what support exists for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, support for carers of people with dementia, and the various treatment options which can be considered for people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Don’t dismiss the little symptoms you or your family may have noticed, it’s not necessarily part of getting old – it might be part of getting ill.

Within Suffolk, anyone who needs help, advice and support for themselves or others pre or post a diagnosis of dementia, can contact the Alzheimer’s Society via their Dementia Connect (Telephone 0333 150 3456 or email suffolk@alzheimers.org.uk).

Within Waveney, Alzheimer’s Society provide a Dementia Support Service (Telephone 01603 763556 or email norfolk@alzheimers.org.uk).