Can Alzheimer’s Disease be prevented? Can it be cured? With an increasing number of people being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (as we live longer, the number of people affected increases), more research is being carried out to attempt to prevent it, to cure it and to beat it into submission.
The effects of Alzheimer’s Disease are raised publicly when a high profile person becomes diagnosed with early-onset dementia or dies, having had dementia for considerable time. Terry Pratchett is a recent example. There is currently a TV advertising campaign happening in the UK, whereby an ad has been created and is being transmitted to raise awareness about the effects of dementia (on the patient and on their family) and about ways to eventually overcome it. If you were watching Emmerdale this week or Britain’s Got Talent at the weekend, you might have noticed it.
Many people have admitted that they were afraid to admit to the diagnosis of dementia. Partly because admitting it to friends and family would mean it was real, that they couldn’t hide away from it. Partly because they were embarrassed and partly because they were afraid of their reaction as well as being scared about the future. This campaign is encouraging people to stop hiding the reasons that they find crosswords harder to do, or why they have stopped doing hobbies such as dancing or playing the piano. With awareness and understanding, dealing with a diagnosis becomes easier.
It is a fact that young adults (and indeed, some older adults) are ill-equipped to help someone that has dementia. People with early onset Alzheimer’s need people in the community to understand that they need more time getting money from their purse or remembering their shopping. As one person on the Late Late Show said recently, even paying for parking takes more time and that she is conscious of people becoming impatient behind her. Maybe we all need to slow down a little, stop rushing around and take time to help others and be patient. Don’t assume a person is silly because they are slow or hesitant. Take a moment to wait patiently or ask if they want assistance.
Some of our clients at Comfort Keepers have dementia. The vast majority are able to continue living independently in their own home until the very last stages, with the help of a daily carer. The carer calls for an hour – partly to provide company and remind them to take medication but also to help with personal care, food preparation and perhaps light housework. Many clients have a family member who calls in the evening so it is important to have a professional carer calling earlier in the day. Having dementia is not the end, people live for many, very happy, years after a diagnosis – once treatment and appropriate help have been acted upon.
In the words of novelist Valerie Blumenthal “This campaign will help people to accept that Alzheimer’s is a disease, and a disease we can tame. We need to fight the perception that dementia is an inevitability, and recognise that research is our weapon against it.”
As many in Ireland watch ITV and BBC, we will see those advertisements. Do you think we need a similarly high profile campaign here?