Eileen talks about Alzheimers and Dementia

Eileen Fegan talks about the debilitating condition called Dementia and recognises the work of the Alzheimers Society and Alzheimers Research UK, who work tirelessly to find a cure.


By the end of  2015 there were 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.  40,000 of these are younger people (under 65) and 25,000 are from black and ethnic groups.  By the year 2025, there will be 1 million people with dementia in the UK.  Approximately 500,000 people in the UK are currently suffering with Alzheimers.  This  is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a disease in itself and it is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. We all get forgetful; however, when this forgetfulness turns into short-term memory loss, it is important to explore the reasons for it.  For example, we all forget where we have put our car keys, however, if you forget what the car keys are used for, then this is not normal and may be one of the first signs of short-term memory loss.

Dementia is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.  Sufferers tend to neglect themselves, become confused and sometimes aggressive and may not recognise family and friends.  It is a very cruel disease and research shows that most sufferers die within 8 years of diagnosis.

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or a series of strokes.

According to Alzheimers UK, everyone with Alzheimer’s will experience symptoms in their own way. Early signs usually include difficulties forming new memories, but people may also experience language or spatial awareness difficulties (problems with surroundings).

Typical early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
  • Becoming increasingly repetitive.
  • Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion about the time of day.
  • Disorientation, especially away from your normal surroundings.
  • Getting lost.
  • Problems finding the right words.
  • Mood or behaviour problems such as apathy, irritability, or losing confidence.

Dementia is an umbrella term. It describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. There are many different types of dementia although some are far more common than others. They are often named according to the condition that has caused the dementia. There are many other rarer causes of dementia, including progressive supranuclear palsy and Binswanger's disease. People with multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease can also be at an increased risk of developing dementia.   The more common types of dementia are;


Alzheimers Disease, the most common cause of dementia.  During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of brain cells.

Vascular Dementia occurs if the oxygen supply to the brain fails and  brain cells may die. The symptoms of vascular dementia can occur either suddenly, following a stroke, or over time, through a series of small strokes.

Lewy Body Dementia is the form of dementia that  gets its name from tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence in the brain leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.

Fronto-Temporal Dementia is damage  usually focused in the front part of the brain. Personality and behaviour are initially more affected than memory.


According to ARUK, there are 10 things that have a massive impact on the carers of those suffering with Alzheimers/dementia and thefinancial implications are also staggering:-


1. People with dementia have a lower self-reported quality of life than both the population as a whole and those over 65 and this gets progressively worse as the severity of the condition develops.(23)

2. There are approximately 700,000 informal carers in the UK caring for their loved ones with dementia, this is expected to rise to 1.7 million by 2050.

3. Women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hr care for people with dementia.

4. 20 per cent of women carers have gone from working full time to part time.

5. 62 per cent of female carers say the experience is emotionally stressful.

6. By 2017 it is predicted there will not be enough informal carers to look after older people requiring care.

7. Dementia costs the UK economy over £24 billion a year, this is a combination of health and care costs and the vast contribution made by informal carers.

8. Caring for each person with dementia has an economic impact of almost £28,500 each year.

9. By 2025 it is expected dementia will cost the UK economy £32.5 billion and by 2050 it could be costing the UK economy £59.4 billion at today’s prices.

10. Globally it is estimated that dementia costs the economy over £360 billion each year.


Hope for Alzheimers sufferers and their families may come in the form of a drug called Solanezumab.  On 22 July 2015, new trial results were announced for the drug, in Washington DC at the largest Dementia conference in the World. Dr Ian Le Guillou heard the results first hand and interpreted the findings as follows.   The pharmaceutical company, Lilly, presented their research, following the largest study of Dementia sufferers ever performed  and the evidence appears to demonstrate that the results presented last week are not enough to approve the drug for patients.  This is why Lilly are now running another trial of this drug called EXPEDITION 3 which only includes people with mild Alzheimer's with the same delayed start design. The results from this trial are expected to be announced in 2017 and that is when we will have solid data.

All is not lost as the research presented on the 22nd July 2015, does give us a glimpse of the potential for this drug.  Dr Le Guillou suggests that one important result is that people can take solanezumab for three and a half years safely, an issue that has plagued this class of drugs in previous trials. Tests for cognition showed a maintained difference between those people who had been taking the drug for three and a half years against those who had only been receiving it for the past two years.

This wouldn't have been seen if the drug was only affecting symptoms, which suggests that the drug actually targets the disease process. However, people who took the drug still declined in memory and thinking tests, so expectations of what this drug can do should be tempered. It appears that the drug slows the progression of the disease but the trial was not designed to test for the size of the effect on symptoms, so the conclusions we can draw are limited.

According to the Alzheimers Society, there is growing evidence indicating that certain medical conditions - such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity - may increase the risk of dementia, whereas a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk.  What is important to remember though, according to the Alzheimers Society, is that effective communication, co-operation and co-ordination between all those involved in caring for a person with dementia are essential for providing a level of care that assures dignity and quality of life for the person with dementia and their carers.

The research undertaken by the Alzheimers Society into care,  is aimed at ensuring that the best possible care is delivered, improving the  quality of life for sufferers as well as those caring for them.


For a free booklet on Alzheimers, contact Alzheimers Research UK on www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/get-the-facts-sign-up/.  Or phone ARUK on 0300 111 5555.


Alzheimers Poem: Author anonymous


Do not ask me to remember

Do not try to make me understand

Let me rest and know you are with me

Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I am confused beyond your concept.

I am sad and sick and lost.

All I know is that I need you to be with me at all cost.

Do not lose your patience with me.

Do not scold or curse my cry.

I can’t help the way I am acting,

Can’t be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you and

The best of me is gone.

Please don’t fail to stand beside me,

Love me till my life is done.





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