Dementia and memory loss
Dementia is not a disease but rather a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. These symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions, with the most common cause of dementia being Alzheimer's. Vascular dementia is another cause, which can develop following a stroke or blood vessel damage. Dementia is not a normal consequence of growing old.
In most cases, dementia symptoms develop gradually and get worse over time, often over a number of years. They can vary according to the condition causing them.
The person living with dementia, and those around them, may not even notice the signs or take them seriously for quite some time. It can be a confusing and scary condition, for both those living with it and those with whom they come into contact.
Where to get help and advice
Doctor / GP
As a first step, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor / GP, as it may be that other existing medical conditions or medication you are taking is affecting your memory.
Your doctor may refer you to a memory clinic, where they can assess your condition in more detail. If you are diagnosed with dementia, there are treatments and support available and your health professionals will be able to help you and your family, or the person who cares for you, to manage your condition and plan for the future.
Alzheimer’s Society provide lots of useful information about dementia, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. They also have a national helpline (0300 222 11 22) and online directory providing additional advice and support. In Herefordshire, there’s a Dementia Adviser Service, which provides advice, information and signposting. You can contact the service by calling 01432 371137.
Being a Dementia Friend can help you understand more about dementia and learn that offering a little support can make a big difference.
The NHS offer a lot of information about Alzheimer’s, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. There’s also a wide range of information and guidance if you’re looking after someone with dementia.
There are lots of great assistive technology devices available, which can make a big difference to your quality of life and help you live independently at home for longer. Take a look at our assistive technology section.
If you’re living with dementia, or caring for someone who is, you may be entitled to certain benefits to help with your daily life. Visit Herefordshire Council’s Better Off website or the Alzheimer’s Society’s benefits and dementia webpage.
You can borrow a number of useful books on dementia from the county’s libraries. Visit Herefordshire Council’s libraries webpages to find your nearest library and search for available books. You can also access the Reading Well Books on Prescription service through your local library for a range of helpful books.
Living with dementia does not necessarily mean an end to daily activities, including driving. You can often still drive safely for some time after diagnosis. Find out more by visiting the Alzheimer’s Society’s driving and dementia webpage.
If you’re diagnosed with dementia, it could affect your insurance policy, so it’s best to check with your provider as soon as possible, especially if you’re going on holiday or travelling.
NHS Health Checks
Living well and keeping healthy can often help to lower the chances of developing dementia. If you’re aged 40 to 74, it’s important to attend your NHS Health Check, as this programme aims to help prevent certain types of dementia. Take a look at the NHS Dementia - Helping your brain to stay healthy leaflet.
Photo: © Alzheimer's Society