“Don’t ignore it” is the message to anyone worried about becoming more forgetful or experiencing changes to their normal behaviour, ahead of this year’s Dementia Action Week which runs from 17 to 23 May.
People are being advised to speak to their GP if they are worried about changes to themselves or a loved one, which may be more noticeable as people begin to meet up again following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
A wide range of free online sessions and activities have been organised throughout Dementia Action Week. A schedule of events is available on the NHS West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group website where you’ll also find details of how to access them.
Dementia can impact people in different ways, but key changes to look for are difficulties recalling information, dates and events; problems with speaking or writing; misplacing things; withdrawing from social situations and changes in behaviours and mood.
It is understandable that someone might feel anxious or scared if they, or a loved one, are experiencing changes to their behaviour which may be connected to dementia. Help and support is available, and people are encouraged to seek professional advice.
Dr Bikram Raychaudhuri, Clinical Lead at NHS West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Dementia is a syndrome of brain symptoms, causing a progressive decline in brain function, such that it interferes with normal day to day activities. So, forgetting where the car keys are kept is not a symptom of dementia. But forgetting the route from home to the local shopping parade is a cause for concern and should be investigated.
“Recognition of dementia is essential to ensure that appropriate support is provided to patients, families and carers, who need to understand why their loved one has changed and what it may mean.
“Currently, although we don’t have any medication to cure dementia, active research is ongoing on this issue. In the interim, even if we can’t change the end-point of the disease, we can definitely alter the journey, by ensuring patients, family members and carers recognise the problem, take steps to reduce the impact and get more support when appropriate, while ensuring the wishes of the people affected are respected.”
Mark Greening, Carers and Dementia Joint Commissioning Manager at West Sussex County Council, said: “Getting assessed by our social work team can also help identify what support you might benefit from, such as help around the home or assistive technology.
“With the right support, many people can continue to live independently in their own homes for many years, enjoying life as before their diagnosis.”
Approximately 16,650 people are currently living with dementia in West Sussex. This is predicted to rise by nearly 35% in nine years, to 22,450 by 2030.
The West Sussex Joint Dementia Strategy was launched last year with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of people living with the condition in West Sussex.
It was developed in partnership between West Sussex County Council, NHS West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, District and Borough Councils as well as community and voluntary providers and includes the views of people with the lived experience of dementia.
A number of voluntary and charity organisations – including Carers Support West Sussex, Dementia Support and Alzheimer’s Society – offer support in the community for people with dementia and their families. Details of the support available can be found on the NHS West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group website.