A Life Changing Illness

A Life Changing Illness Image

Any one of us in the future could be faced with being told that we have dementia. It is predicted that the numbers of people being diagnosed with the illness will significantly rise in years to come. For instance, there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK with numbers set to increase to 2 million by 2051 (Alzheimer's Society).

There may be some of you currently going through a dementia journey with a loved one or have experienced the illness with family members in the past. If this is the case, you will already know how life changing this illness can really be for all involved.

Through my line of work, I talk to a lot of people who have had parents with dementia and they often fear that they too may develop the illness at some point in their life. There is uncertainty about a ‘heredity link' although it is thought that there is a 50% chance that Frontal-temporal lobe dementia (Pick's disease) can be passed onto family members.

Dementia is often labelled as an ‘older person's' illness but this is not always the case. We are hearing a lot more in the media about young onset dementia, where young people in their 30's and 40's are being diagnosed. This can have a devastating impact on young families where the illness has tragically affected them in the prime of their lives.

You may be thinking is there a way of preventing the illness from occurring in the future? Well if you regard your brain like any other muscle in your body it is important that it is frequently ‘exercised' to keep it healthy. This may involve learning something new, reading regularly or doing memory type puzzles. It's basically about keeping your brain active and keeping yourself physically healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising and reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol to maintain the best health possible.

Symptoms of dementia will vary from person to person. No two-people diagnosed, will go on to have the same experience. The type of dementia and what part of the brain is affected will influence how the illness will progress. It can have a debilitating affect on a person's memory, motor skills, communication, mobility, personality, swallowing and recognition of basic needs like sleep, food/water and excretion. Seeing your ‘loved one' going through their illness is often heart breaking beyond words. Those with Alzheimer's, a disease that causes dementia can have medication prescribed to slow down the effects of the illness, however unfortunately, there is still no known cure for dementia.

Caregivers often feel that there is a lack of information and support. If you are ‘computer savvy', then the internet maybe a way of obtaining information or connecting with people in a similar situation to yourself. Your community centre or library may have information on dementia support groups or memory café's running in your local area.

If you are currently a caregiver try and take your loved one's dementia journey one day at a time. It can be too overwhelming to anxiously anticipate the future. Carers often describe it as a bereavement as they ‘lose' the person to dementia. There will be good and bad days, so hold on tight to the good memories and try to let go of the bad, it is the ‘illness' and not the ‘person' after all.

Tracy Gough (Nurse, Life Coach and Author)



Last Updated: 19/02/2018

No comments made yet

Add Your Comment

* required fields