World Alzheimer’s Month
On 21st September we will observe World Alzheimer's Day as part of World Alzheimer's Month. The purpose of World Alzheimer's Month is to raise awareness and educate about dementia as well as support individuals affected by it along with their families. This year’s theme is “Know Alzheimer’s, Know Dementia” with a particular emphasis on care post-diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative disease affecting the brain which results in the key symptoms of dementia, namely memory loss, mood swings, and various other impairments of cognitive function. Its onset is typically after 65 and according to a BMJ article it’s expected to affect 6% of that age group.
Locally, Barking and Dagenham Council estimates (as of Healthwatch’s 2018 report) that there are 1,540 individuals in the borough suffering from dementia, and whilst the percentage of the population afflicted is expected to decrease this is only due to an expected influx of younger residents and not a reduction of cases. North-East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) are expecting an increase in people suffering with dementia as the borough’s population ages. Furthermore, there is a lack of data for BAME residents related to their access to local dementia services by carers in those communities.
Due to Barking and Dagenham residents being at a higher-than-average risk of dementia, it is important for us at Healthwatch to warn of risk factors, discuss symptoms, and signpost relevant services. The risk factors locally have been found to be rates of smoking, vascular disease, obesity, and diabetes in the population. Regarding symptoms, an article in the European Journal of Neurology writes that symptoms of Alzheimer’s are often mistaken for general decline that comes with ageing. With that in mind, it is important to be particularly alerted to these symptoms for your older relatives. Such indicators of dementia include the memory loss and mood swings mentioned earlier. More specifically, early signs consist of problems retaining newer information and depression or apathy effecting more complex daily activities. Due to the nature of Alzheimer’s as a progressive disease, these will worsen over time but if an early diagnosis is made, families are given valuable time and insight to make difficult decisions.
Local services available for Alzheimer’s include the NELFT Memory Services which can provide assessments and follow-up appointments. They also provide nursing home visits to see individual patients whilst also training care staff. Linked below is a page giving further information as well as providing relevant contact details:
As Alzheimer's is a terminal illness, end-of-life planning is crucial, and the NHS has numerous resources to assist with this. This is particularly important with Alzheimer’s due to a patient’s gradually diminishing capacity to put their affairs in order. Linked below is an NHS guide of what to expect and what to prioritise with end-of-life care:
Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham always welcome your feedback about the health or care services you or your loved one accessed. Your feedback helps in shaping local services. You can provide your feedback by calling us on 0800 298 5331, email it to us firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete a form on our website: https://www.healthwatchbarkinganddagenham.co.uk/content/speak-out