Fulfilled living in later life
The Hidden Hopes in Dementia

Tuesday 10th May 2022

The Hidden Hopes in Dementia

Louise Morse

Sunday May 15 to May 22 has been designated Dementia Awareness Week. The aim of the week is to prompt more diagnoses of dementia and to encourage people to help improve the lives of people affected by the disease. But I wonder if a better title would be, ‘Learn the Real Facts about Dementia.’ There can’t be a single adult in the UK who isn’t aware of the disease and with it a sense of dread. It has overtaken cancer as the most feared disease. So, although awareness is high, real knowledge and understanding is low, and hope-giving information is hidden from sight.

I’ve been following the news and research about dementia for over 18 years and have published five popular books about it. The first book, ‘Dementia: Losing your mind doesn’t mean losing your soul’ was to correct a misbelief that, as the disease progressed, the person with dementia was dying bit by bit until only a shell remained. It was heartrending for relatives. Yet Hebrews 11:27 says that a person dies only once, not bit by bit, and it’s understood now that the person remains until the end. The physical evidence is in a phenomenon known as ‘rementing’, when the person emerges through the fog totally as themselves, even in advanced dementia towards the end of life. There is no medical explanation for it and is not widely reported but there are many accounts from people who’ve experienced it. The spirit of the person – the real person – remains and can be reached. Jennifer Bute and I give examples of this in our book: ‘Dementia from the Inside: a doctor’s personal journey of hope.’

Hope in the wider dementia story. The good news is that we are beating it! The number of new cases is dropping. This was a headline at an Alzheimer’s conference in Copenhagen in 2010, and it’s been confirmed recently that rates have dropped by 16% during each of the last three decades. We are told that there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, b

ut actual diagnoses are only 527,400. (Of course, even one is too much.) The higher figure is an estimate based on projections made in the 1980s.

And this drop is happening simply because we are living with better health care, lifestyles, and education, and are recognising the effect of our emotions on our bodies. Our lifestyles can even override our genetic inheritance as studies with identical twins show.

Hope in the findings of huge study for Japanese population. Japan has the oldest population of the world with 29% of Japanese people being over 65, and with an estimated 3.5 million living with dementia. A study of over 40 million people, using an analytical model from nationwide cross-sectional surveys, death records, and existing cohort studies, found that life expectancy could increase while the years spent with dementia will decrease. It predicted that mild cognitive impairment would begin later in life than at present. The researchers concluded that public health policy should address disparities at different ages, particularly in education. Elderly women in Japan are at risk because of their low level of education.

Hope in healthy lifestyles. Dr Kaiser, director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, EA, said, “one of the greatest myths about Alzheimer’s disease, or other types of dementia, is that there is “nothing we can do.” Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Around one in three cases of dementia is preventable by tackling the appropriate lifestyle factors, such as doing more physical exercise and leading an active social life. “There’s been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s,” says Dr Schneider, from the Keck School of medicine, University of South California in Los Angeles, but he believes that nonpharmacological measures, as well as conscientious efforts to diminish known risk factors will have a better success rate.

Hope in being with people. Dr Schneider’s team studied the effects of antipsychotic drugs used to treat agitation and aggression, that can have severe side effects, and showed that a more effective way was increased social contact and communal activities. “Group cognitive stimulation therapy, focusing on games discussions and interactive approaches, was also deemed beneficial.”

Hope in known results. There has been excellent feedback with very positive results to our Brain and Soul Boosting series - a new version of which is coming soon.

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