DEMENTIA AWARENESS: ARE YOUNG PEOPLE EXPOSED ENOUGH TO THE ISSUE?

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Ok, so this post is a little bit more personal and close to the heart.

Anyone who’s witnessed a loved one’s descent into Dementia will know how heart-breaking it is, young people like myself aren’t shown the dangers and consequences that Dementia causes, and this is why I feel the need to write this to show young people like myself, that it is important to be “in the know” and to show other young students and teenagers out there that have been affected by the disease that, you are not alone.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by certain diseases such as strokes, the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms that someone with dementia will experience is unique in different ways to who it effects, especially within the early stages.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, it mainly affects people over the age of 65, 1 in 14 people of this age group have dementia and it’s predicted that 850,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia this year. However there are more than 40,000 people in the UK that are under 65 living with dementia.

If these current trends continue to proceed and no action is taken, the number could possibly rise to 1,142,677 by 2025. Sadly, there is no current cure for the disease, however there is a range of support, therapies and activities that can help someone live well with dementia.

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When my granddad, John, was diagnosed in his late 50’s, it was a hard time for my family. I’d spent years doing my own thing and wasn’t in contact with my granddad for a long time thinking that we’d have lots of time to get to know one another properly later on in life. Yet I was wrong, after my grandmother suddenly passed, my granddad became worse with his condition, and eventually he was put into a care home that specialises within dementia.

Due to his diagnosis of dementia and cases of several strokes, we began to see one another more frequently each week three years before my grandmother passed away and it was definitely precious time worth spent. Although I was spending more time with my granddad before things got worse; I started to pick up on his certain habits of him struggling to recall certain events that were happening at the time and problems concentrating or making decisions.

After months of doctor’s appointments we were finally left with a diagnosis and an information leaflet to support us. Although it was supportive in its own ways, it wasn’t supportive with the strain, time and effort that my mum and dad would be spending to care for my granddad after my grandmother passed. As my granddad’s condition progressed I began to realise that despite all the meetings with councillors and the consultations that I witnessed, nobody tells you the reality of this pure evil disease.

They don’t tell you how to deal with your grandfather attempting to throw punches at people, neither do they tell you how to deal with that on a day to day basis to the shop for the morning newspaper that he thinks he can just walk out and not pay for anything. Nobody tells you how to tell the shop owners and make them understand that my granddad has got dementia and aren’t encountering a frail thug of a shoplifter.

They don’t tell you how to deal with the crushing realisation that my granddad had forgotten that he even has an illness and thinks that you’re putting him in a home for the sake of it and asks if you even love him anymore. They don’t tell you that they will soon forget your name, and even who you are. Nobody tells you how to channel your anger when teenagers my age, are living their lives with healthy grades, a social life, and have proper telephone conversations with their healthy grandparents and yours resolves around a terminally ill, confused gentleman that worked hard all of his life and now can’t remember how to communicate in any way possible.

They don’t tell you that once he’s near the final stage that you will sit with him hours on end trying to tell him things like you’ve passed your driving test and have finally been offered a place at university, to just give you the last hope of making him proud.

Dementia stole the time that my parents, family, myself and friends were supposed to have with my grandfather John and I strongly think that the majority of young people in the UK aren’t aware enough of the disease and this is a real problem for the future.

People need to be aware that in the UK we are not prepared to cater for everyone with dementia in care homes and hospitals, people need to be aware that it might happen to a loved one, people need to be aware of the confused lady or man walking past them that might need some help in one way or another.

Alzheimer’s society and Dementia Friends can help you support and understand a bit more about the incurable disease and the small things you can do to help people with the condition. Whether that be helping someone find the right bus or being patient in a till queue if someone with dementia is taking longer to pay. All these little things helps someone’s life affected in some way.

Due to the recent study that has cropped up to find that dementia may be ‘linked’ to common over the counter drugs for conditions such as insomnia and hay fever. It’s important that the UK acts as a community, to spot signs of dementia and to make sure us young people know the ins and outs of the disease.

Want to help? There’s so many things you can do, to get involved and be a part of something that is something close to your heart, to be involved as a community, to support friends, family or even a colleague. No matter what your reason is, everyone is welcome to become a part of the charity.

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Last year I got involved with the memory walk at Rother Valley Country Park in Sheffield and raised over £200, this makes a massive difference to the organisation and can help fund anything from a patient having an arts class at their local care home to helping with travel or to be involved within an activity.

Here’s some top tips to get you to jump on the bandwagon and make a difference:

-Creating fundraising events within your local community or even spreading the word through uni life/societies and even in relation to uni work could make a great difference, either to create an opinion from another, express your experiences to others or to just generally make a difference for the future.

-Alzheimer’s Society hold fundraising memory walks each year all around the country. Last year over 33,000 walkers took part and together raised £1.8 million towards the fight against dementia.

-Get involved and become a volunteer: This might look good on your CV, but it can help someone a long way too. If you have a lot of spare time on your hands and want to help out instead of bingeing on a Netflix marathon, this could be a great cause to help someone.

-Talk to your Students’ Union: They may be able to help with any ideas that you’ve come up with and make your plans happen.

-Promote an event: this could help with the fundraising the way that you want to do it, this may be sports related, cake related or even fancy dress related!

-Campaign: Change the system of charging for care that currently discriminates against people with dementia.

-Donate: Every little penny helps towards the organisation.

-To find out more information on dementia and the memory walks visit: www.alzheimers.org.uk
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-Or become a dementia friend by signing up to www.dementiafriends.org.uk and get your free Dementia Friends pack that includes helpful tips and ideas.

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Sharney x

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