What is Dementia?
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life (Alzheimer's Society).
Dr Ed Komocki, Consultant Psychiatrist, of Derbyshire Healthcare says: “Dementia is a progressive condition which describes a set of symptoms that includes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, activities of daily living and communication. The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Lewy Body disease although the symptoms can also accompany other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
“One of the first signs of dementia is forgetfulness and sufferers often notice that their short-term memory is particularly affected. They may also find it difficult to communicate with others and struggle to think of the right words during conversations. Completing practical tasks such as getting dressed and making a cup of tea may become more difficult and perplexing. When the illness progresses, people may find the process of making choices increasingly problematic and experience difficulties recognising faces or places leading to feelings of disorientation and distress."
How common is Dementia?
Approximately 600,000 people in the UK have dementia. This is 5% of the population aged 65 and older, and 20% of those aged 80 and older. By 2026 this figure is predicted to be 840,000. Dementia is associated with major social and economic costs, including those to families and carers. The UK National Service Framework (NSF) for Older People states that the improved care of people with dementia depends on early recognition and management. Such care should involve a sensitive and accurate explanation of the diagnosis to individuals and carers, and information about the likely prognosis and possible packages of care.
Why has the Centre for Dementia been created?
There is a great amount of work on Dementia within the Centre for Research and Development. Work in this field includes workshops, conferences, research studies and training. A new centre has been created following the recognition of this work; the Centre for Dementia. Within the Centre for Dementia, we are carrying out and planning clinical studies examining the role of medications, exercise and social support on the course of illness.
Dr Thacker has worked in the dementia field for over 20 years and is the Director for Derbyshire Healthcare’s Centre for Dementia, based at Kingsway in Derby. He has published articles about the use of antipsychotic drugs in the elderly, screening for dementia and the role of hope in dementia care.
Dr Thacker says: “Dementia is common and it can lead to delirium, which has devastating consequences. We cannot cure dementia but we can prevent delirium and we might be able to reduce the duration of dementia. I would like individuals to think how we might achieve this without an over-reliance on pills.”