Raising Dementia Awareness by Niamh Hayes
Nearly 40,000 people in Ireland live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Traditionally a condition that only affected elderly people, dementia is now something that is starting to affect younger generations too. As well as Alzheimer’s disease, there are many other types of dementia, including vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia. While dementia is not a disease itself, it is actually a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by the different diseases listed above. This damage can affect memory, thinking, language and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Symptoms of dementia vary from person to person and according to the part of the brain that is damaged, but common symptoms include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, getting confused over familiar daily tasks, struggling to follow a conversation, and mood changes. These symptoms can often worsen as the condition progresses. As there is no medication available at present that can cure or prevent dementia, the focus needs to be on managing the symptoms and helping the person affected live as independently as possible, for as long as possible. Making sure the person has enough assistance to meet their everyday needs is most important, but it is also essential that family members and caregivers get appropriate support.