What springs to mind when you hear the word, ‘dementia’? I can only assume that your initial thoughts are of the memory loss of an elderly person or asking questions repeatedly. This is the worldwide stereotypical opinion of what dementia is. Of course, you are right. Dementia is the gradual deterioration of the brain.
We, however, as a society, have almost become accustomed to the word. We dismiss it as a mere forgetfulness; there is much more to it than meets the eye. There are a whole variety of symptoms that most are unaware of.
For example, complete immobility; not understanding the function of your legs or your arms, requiring a wheelchair or being confined to bed and not understanding the importance of eating and drinking or having difficulty swallowing which gradually causes weight loss. Increased behavioural problems such as agitation, wandering, aggression or hallucinations and bladder incontinence are also distressing and debilitating traits.
Although, the last are symptoms of advanced dementia. There are many different types of which most I was unaware of, such as vascular dementia, those specific to Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia or those distinct with Lewy bodies.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide and almost 10 million new cases are detected each year. There is currently no cure for it and may never be due to various causes by differing diseases.
Despite this, increasing levels of funding for research is ongoing, providing the NHS with greater ability and resources to understand how dementia works and what causes it. Advances have been made by studying cells in the brain, immunotherapy which boosts the body’s defences to battle diseases and gene-based therapies.
Equally, there are numerous dementia based research projects and charities continuously working on the symptoms, its patterns, cures and preventions.
Many fundraising based charities therefore, work to contribute as much as possible to helping those research projects achieve their aims. Others, such as Dementia UK, also ensure that quality care is accessible to more people and in more ways.
Here at Lancaster University, we have our very own Defying Dementia Student Society which does exactly that. They organise fundraising events in order to raise as much as awareness and support as possible for dementia research.
As for many others in the world, dementia has had a huge impact on my own life. My grandmother has lived with my family and I for 18 years and suffers with dementia herself. We have witnessed the impact the illness has on her physical and mental health as well as on our own.
We have been through various methods with care agencies to relieve the physical impact but there remains a lack of funding to truly help her and ourselves. That is why my sister – Lancaster University alumna – and I cycled 100k on stationary bikes on the 6th November, to raise money for Dementia UK; for nurses, carers and families who are all going through the same thing.
We had already topped our original target of £300, raising £1,079 before the cycle, contributing to the top 15% of Dementia UK’s fundraisers in October, and have now raised a total of £1379.
Dementia is unpredictable and it is not a natural part of ageing. It is so important that support groups are available to help dementia patients and struggling families. It’s an increasing problem that cannot be hidden away in the corner.