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Irish Independent - Health & Living - - MIND YOURSELF -

very day in Ire­land, an av­er­age of 11 peo­ple are di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia. In fact, right now there are 55,000 peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia in this coun­try — more than would fill the Aviva Sta­dium.

Yet while many of us know some­one with de­men­tia, very few re­ally un­der­stand it. A sur­vey last year by the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive found that just one in four be­lieves that they have a good un­der­stand­ing of what de­men­tia is.

Dr Chris­tine Fitzger­ald, from Trin­ity Col­lege’s Global Brain Health In­sti­tute, work­ing with the na­tion­wide ‘De­men­tia: Un­der­stand To­gether’ cam­paign, shares the fol­low­ing 10 things to know about de­men­tia — to help you bet­ter sup­port peo­ple liv­ing with the con­di­tion.

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF DE­MEN­TIA

De­men­tia is not just one con­di­tion — in fact there are 400 dif­fer­ent types. De­men­tia is an um­brella term for dif­fer­ent dis­eases that dam­age the nerve cells in the brain.

Many peo­ple will know or have met some­one with Alzheimer’s dis­ease, the most com­mon type of de­men­tia. Alzheimer’s dis­ease accounts for the ma­jor­ity of cases in older peo­ple and of­ten de­vel­ops slowly, over sev­eral years. In the early stages it can be dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from the mild for­get­ful­ness that can be a nor­mal part of age­ing. Septem­ber is World Alzheimer’s Month with events tak­ing place around the globe to raise aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of this par­tic­u­lar type of de­men­tia.

An­other com­mon but less well-known type of de­men­tia is vas­cu­lar de­men­tia. This de­vel­ops when the blood sup­ply to the brain is re­duced be­cause of nar­row­ing or block­ages in blood ves­sels and brain cells be­com­ing dam­aged.

It can oc­cur sud­denly, for ex­am­ple, fol­low­ing a stroke af­fect­ing ma­jor blood ves­sels, or it can oc­cur more slowly over sev­eral years, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple who have high blood pres­sure, high choles­terol or type 2 di­a­betes.

FOR­GET­FUL­NESS DOESN’T AL­WAYS MEAN DE­MEN­TIA

Lots of things — other than de­men­tia — can cause mem­ory loss, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, thy­roid ab­nor­mal­i­ties, vi­ta­min de­fi­cien­cies and side­ef­fects of med­i­ca­tions, many of which can be treated.

While it’s not un­usual for peo­ple to for­get names or where they have put their keys from time to time, with de­men­tia, mem­ory loss is more sig­nif­i­cant than oc­ca­sional for­get­ful­ness and tends to grad­u­ally get worse. Peo­ple may also be­gin to strug­gle with ev­ery­day tasks like pay­ing bills and may get lost in fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings.

What­ever the cause, it is im­por­tant to get to the root of the prob­lem. If you are wor­ried about your mem­ory or think that you may have de­men­tia, it’s a good idea to see your GP.

GET­TING OLDER DOESN’T MEAN YOU WILL DE­VELOP DE­MEN­TIA

Although de­men­tia usu­ally af­fects peo­ple as they get older, it’s not a nor­mal part of age­ing. While most peo­ple who are liv­ing with de­men­tia are aged over 65 years, the vast ma­jor­ity of older peo­ple do not de­velop the con­di­tion.

Sim­i­larly, de­men­tia is not ex­pe­ri­enced only by older peo­ple — there are at least 4,000 peo­ple un­der the age of 65 years liv­ing with it in Ire­land to­day. In some­one un­der 65, this is called early or younger on­set de­men­tia. Peo­ple who are di­ag­nosed may have a fam­ily his­tory of de­men­tia and ge­net­ics may play a role. It can also af­fect those with other con­di­tions such as Parkin­son’s dis­ease, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease or HIV.

NO PER­SON’S EX­PE­RI­ENCE OF DE­MEN­TIA IS THE SAME

De­men­tia is not all about mem­ory loss and con­fu­sion. Th­ese are key fea­tures but ev­ery­body

Ro­bots can im­prove the health of peo­ple with de­men­tia by low­er­ing stress lev­els, de­creas­ing lone­li­ness and

in­creas­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion

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