Through our officers’ work in the communities across Avon and Somerset, our force regularly comes into contact with people with dementia and their families.
In 2015/16, we were contacted more than 300 times about a missing person thought to be affected by dementia. We also regularly come into contact with those affected by dementia in the communities we serve.
That is why we are supporting Dementia Awareness Week, which is run by The Alzheimer’s Society and will see a host of events held across the country.
The week is aimed at confronting the issue of dementia head on, busting myths and encouraging those with worries about dementia to seek support.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.
When someone becomes forgetful or confused, friends and family can be quick to reassure them ‘it is just what happens when you get older’. While some do struggle with memory during times of stress or illness. dementia is different. Lots of people may briefly forget a friend’s name – someone with dementia may forget ever having met them.
Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
Dementia describes a group of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulties with planning, problem-solving and language, and sometimes changes in mood. It occurs when the brain is damaged by a disease – most commonly Alzheimer’s disease - which change the structure and chemistry of the brain. Each disease affects the brain in slightly different ways.
It’s not just about losing your memory.
Dementia does often start by affecting short-term memory, including causing someone to repeat themselves or have problems recalling things that happened recently. However, it can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave. Some people will struggle with familiar daily tasks, some may struggle to control their emotions and others may become withdrawn.
It is possible to live well with dementia.
There is no known cure for dementia and scientists continue to work hard to find one. However, there are medications available that stop symptoms progressing for a while. There are also other ways of helping someone with dementia, including creating a life story when the person shares their experiences and memories or cognitive stimulation which might involve completing puzzles or discussing current affairs.
There is more to a person than the dementia.
Living with dementia is challenging and the person may need help and support with tasks and activities. But it dementia doesn’t change who they are. With the right support, it is possible for them to still get the best out of life.
If you are worried about your memory or about someone else, make an appointment with a GP who can rule out other conditions that may have similar, treatable symptoms.
For more information, help and support visit www.alzheimers.org.uk or call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122.