World Alzheimer’s Day takes place on 21 September and is part of the wider Alzheimer’s Month.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK. Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of your brain functioning. It can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:
- increasing age
- a family history of the condition
- untreated chronic depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease
You can read more about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease on the NHS website.
The theme for this year’s Alzheimer’s Month is the power of knowledge emphasising how learning more about dementia and memory changes can help you and your loved ones feel empowered to reach out for help and support.
World Alzheimer’s Day is an international campaign to raise awareness and highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia. It is an opportunity for people and organisations to demonstrate how we can overcome these issues and help people live well with dementia.
Globally, dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face, with nearly 50 million people living with dementia worldwide. To tackle this global dementia challenge we need to work together, and to collaborate and share best practice with one another.
As part of World Alzheimer’s Month, The Alzheimer’s Society are encouraging everyone to know the signs and symptoms of dementia so they can get the right support and diagnosis as quickly as possible.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe. It affects multiple brain functions.
The first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is usually minor memory loss. For example, this could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects.
As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, such as:
- confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
- difficulty planning or making decisions
- problems with speech and language
- problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
- personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
- hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue)
- low mood or anxiety
As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease progress slowly, it can be difficult to recognise that there’s a problem. Many people feel that memory problems are simply a part of getting older.
Also, the disease process itself may (but not always) prevent people recognising changes in their memory. But Alzheimer’s disease is not a “normal” part of the ageing process.
An accurate and timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can give you the best chance to prepare and plan for the future, as well as receive any treatment or support that may help.
If you’re worried about your memory or think you may have dementia, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with you practice.
If possible, someone who knows you well should be with you as they can help describe any changes or problems they have noticed.
If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.
There’s no single test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s important to remember that memory problems do not necessarily mean you have Alzheimer’s disease.
Please come forward and if you have concerns about dementia. Our local practices are open and have been throughout the pandemic as we work hard to safely see patients.
For more information about Alzheimer’s please visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/.