Here is the latest blog piece from ALLIANCE Director, Irene Oldfather, reflecting on the latest research on dementia.
Recent findings from Alzheimer’s Association International published today in the Lancet present an interesting picture of how we can reduce risk factors for 1 in 3 cases of dementia.
The study makes interesting reading and notes important factors around lifestyle choices that can help us all to live better healthier lives.
Increasing levels of physical activity and reducing smoking makes sense not not in terms of dementia but in terms of overall health and well being.
Failure to complete secondary education was a major risk factor, and the authors suggest that individuals who continue to learn throughout life are likely to build additional brain reserves.
Another major risk factor is hearing loss in middle age – the researchers say this can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are among other potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia.
Another key message from the report is that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.
It appears therefore that physical actIvity, lifelong learning and brain stimulation can play a role in reducing risk. Opportunities in later life to undertake such activity can also promote reducing social isolation and promote general well being.
Not all dementia risk is modifiable and it is important that vulnerable people and their families don’t feel that within this tragedy, they have to apportion blame.
As yet there is no magic cure for dementia, no one pill which will reverse the process – research must be funded to continue to find that solution. In the interim therapeutic interventions can without doubt improve quality of life whether that be in the Care Home or the community. Too often we see open spaces around care homes and dementia units with no one in them. Access to fresh air should be a basic right of all people living with dementia.
Connecting our communities, tolerance, kindness and compassion are vital to all of us, so how much more important to those who are isolated through dementia, geography, fragility, other illness or just family circumstances.
Inclusive communities where people are welcomed and valued no matter how advanced their dementia is, is no substitute for a cure but can be vital stepping stones on the way to understanding and improving quality of life for people living with dementia today and for making us a more rounded and inclusive society.
Too often in the past, and to our ignorance and shame, we have kept people who don’t confine to our societal norms behind closed doors in the shadows, clouded in stigma.
It’s time to open our doors and facilitate and support families living with mid and advanced dementia to step out of the shadows as much as they are able and to participate in life in our towns, our churches, our supermarkets, our cafes -to be integrated back into our communities, then we will be truly dementia friendly.