When I speak to my friends, clients and patients – almost everyone’s biggest health concern is about getting dementia – or “losing your mind” as they get older.
So what can you do to a) identify it, b) take actions NOW to reduce the risk?
Having lapses of memory is increasingly common when you get older – and it can occur at a surprisingly young age – almost any age really! The more things you are trying to remember and juggle, the more chance there is of this happening though, so keeping things simple or writing lists can be a big help for everyone.
However, there are some cases where an increasingly severe memory loss, amongst several other symptoms, can be an early sign of dementia. Recent reports have highlighted a failing sense of direction in particular as a key early indicator of the condition, which researchers are now using to attempt to design the first ever test for dementia, facilitated by a mobile game.
Dementia is a general term which describes a decline in mental ability, with impairments to thinking, communicating and memory. This can begin to interfere with daily life.
My own father had Alzheimer’s Disease for the last 5 years of his life, so I am interested this subject.
There are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society– a number which is set to rise to over a million in the next ten years. This will cause a health crisis in the NHS.
There are hundreds of types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most well-known and common condition, making up around 60-80% of cases. There are a wide range of symptoms that an individual may experience. Each person is affected differently, with no two people experiencing the same range or impact of symptoms. Personality, social situation, and general health are all significant factors in determining the impact dementia can have on a person.
There are ways to recognise the onset of dementia in a loved one. According to the NHS, here are seven early signs:
1. Memory loss
One of the most common early signs of dementia is memory loss which begins to disrupt daily life – particularly short term memory changes, such as forgetting recently learnt information, forgetting messages, or struggling to remember routes or names.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
Taking on familiar tasks that are normally carried out on a daily basis at home, work or as leisure activities, such as getting dressed in the morning, can become increasingly difficult to complete.
3. Confusion and disorientation with time and place
A failing sense of direction, spatial orientation and the resulting confusion are common signs of the onset of dementia. This can include losing track of the passage of time or forgetting important dates and events, as well as those living with dementia forgetting where they are, regardless of how familiar their location may be. They may also struggle to recall how they got there and how they can return. Disorientation can make it harder to follow a series of directions or instructions.
4. Changes in mood, behaviour and personality
As dementia tends to affect judgement, visible changes to a loved one’s mood and personality can be a common sign of the condition. They may be exhibiting rapid and unprovoked mood swings, with depression being a typical sign of early dementia.
5. Problems with communication
Simple, day-to-day conversations can become a struggle for those experiencing early signs of dementia. They can face difficulties with words, expression and explanation, and they may find it hard to join or follow conversation.
They may begin to withdraw from or lose interest in work, social activities, or their once-loved hobbies.
7. Loss of Judgement
Loss of judgement can be a sign and a symptom of dementia. A loved one may be showing signs of making inappropriate decisions, as a result of being unable to evaluate and consider their actions and the consequences as before.
What actions can you take right now to make a difference?
There is not a simple, one-answer solution to this as the causes are multi-factorial, so there is no one solution for everyone but here is my take on some home remedies that you can take.
Eating a clean diet and drinking plenty of water will make a big difference.
Over a lifetime we eat foods and ingest a whole range of toxins and build up waste products. These nasty chemicals cause our bodies to act like waste sumps, in our cells, especially those of our liver and spleen, but ALL of our cells, as they attempt to store the wastes chemicals. This is partly due to our bodies being unable to eradicate all of these chemicals e.g. some heavy metals and partly because we are taking in more than we can possibly get rid of. They can arrive from contaminated food where pesticides or herbicides have been used, packaging, cooking options etc. If you can eliminate these – your cells clean up and they can work as they are designed to.
The benefits include more energy, improved health and better cognitive functions too.
Often it is necessary to take extra pro-active action, as decades of inadvertent poisoning takes time and action to turn around rather than just hoping a cleaner diet will help. This is because with all the toxin build up our bodies elimination systems also do NOT work properly. Bit of a catch-22.
A proper detox is needed, which anyone can do but its best under expert supervision. It involves dietary changes and exercises / actions to help support the main organs and elimination systems. For help on how to do this, either – take part in the Great Guidelines for Later Life Signature Programme or seek the help of a Nutritionist. (Not a dietician.)
Regular exercise is also important.
It stimulates the circulation and this helps the brain cells to work better too. This doesn’t have to mean a five mile run but it does mean putting some effort in, getting OUT of the chair! You could include such things as walking the dog or walking to the post box – try to walk as fast and upright as you can. Cleaning windows – using a bit of “elbow grease” can get up steam so to speak – and they will look lovely afterwards too. The same goes for cleaning the cupboard doors in the kitchen or wax polishing furniture!
It often makes it easier to have an exercise partner – so join a Club eg for dancing or bowls or rambling and there are plenty of outside organisations who need help – to maintain footpaths or sports fields or the Parish churchyard..
Keeping mentally alert and active makes a difference.
For example, engaging in lively conversations, doing crosswords or Sudoko, playing board games and the like where you have to concentrate and can get excited about.
See what options you can create and invent. I know that Bridge is a great favourite with my friends.
Meet with others to stimulate you.
If you join with others to support each other e.g. going to a group meeting where you discuss a particular interest can be helpful. If it is exercise related that is even better e.g ballroom dancing. Having a meeting that involves a meal or snack is another good way to share an enjoyable experience.
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