10 ways to take action against dementia
Next week is Dementia Action Week and we’ve got a run-down of ways you can get involved and make a difference, both for yourself and for others.
There’s good news and there’s not-so-good news
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
Dementia is the cause of one in eight deaths in the UK and there’s still no cure. Alzheimer’s Society is calling dementia the ‘greatest health challenge of our time’ and it’s predicted 130 million will have the disease worldwide by 2050 thanks to our aging population.
It’s easy to feel pretty hopeless when you hear these figures but, now that I’ve suitably bummed you out, the good news is that around a third of cases are thought to be preventable.
That’s right – dementia isn’t an inevitable part of aging and there are lots of things you can do to lower your risk of developing the disease (check out our Demystifying Dementia series for more background info). There are also things you can do to improve your quality of life if you or a loved one currently has dementia.
So, in honour of Dementia Action Week, let’s take back some control and see what we can do!
1. Eat well
Yes, the rumours are true – a diet of chocolate and sausage rolls, while delicious, isn’t actually good for you.
What you might not know is that a healthy diet can also help prevent dementia.
A Mediterranean diet is best apparently, so although Accrington may not exactly be the Algarve, we can at least copy their diet. Take a bash at meals including more starchy foods such as bread and pasta, fresh fruit and veg, fish and products made from vegetable and plant oils like olive oil.
2. Look after yourself
Again, I’m teaching you to suck eggs here, but looking after your body is undeniably a top way of helping prevent dementia.
Even if it’s just walking to work or round the block in the evening, or following a YouTube work-out at home, it’ll lead to mad gains both now and in the future.
3. Keep that big ole brain of yours active
Keeping your mind active is also thought to be good for preventing dementia, so take a load off and try something new, like reading, crossword puzzles, Sodoku, online courses, learning a language or making miniature model versions of Toxteth.
4. Swap out your vices
Everyone’s allowed a vice but if you replace drinking and smoking with, say, videos of people popping bubble wrap, you’re reducing your risk of dementia and saving yourself money.
5. Stay social
Isolation is a real problem for people with dementia – they might withdraw because they’re embarrassed or stressed, or they might even be avoided because other people don’t know how to react.
We’re a nation of people that would rather take a 20 minute detour home rather than risk bumping into someone we know unexpectedly but – in the immortal words of BT – it’s good to talk. Staying social and seeing familiar faces is a really good way of managing the disease and lowering the risk of dementia.
6. Ask a friend
Now that we’re all social butterflies, if you do know anyone living with dementia, the best approach is just to ask how they’re doing.
Alzheimer’s Society asked people living with dementia for advice on how people can approach them and mostly they just want to be acknowledged. Even if they don’t remember the interaction, they’ll still remember the feeling it left them with. They said:
‘Talk to me, smile, be a little patient and give me time to reply.’
‘A simple ‘hello’, ask about the weather, anything that you feel comfortable with.’
‘Just be yourself and yes, we will make mistakes but it’s ok to laugh along with us.’
‘I love it when people ask me questions. It gives me an opportunity to show that people with dementia exist, that we can still contribute to things going on around us and that life goes on. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like me again’
‘Just don’t ask if I remember.’
‘Don’t be afraid. All it takes is a conversation to see we’re still us.’
7. Get involved
Volunteering or fundraising are two vital ways to support the work of great charities like Alzheimer’s Society.
Whatever your talents, whatever you enjoy and however much time you have to spare, there are ways you can get involved.
Off the top of my head, examples include becoming a Side-by-Side volunteer, where you get matched up to someone living with dementia to hang out for an hour a week; hosting a bake sale to raise money, volunteering your time and taking part in events in your area like the Glow Walk and fun runs.
8. Attend our events
We’ve got a metric tea-tonne of events across the North West next week for people living with dementia.
From memory box reminiscings to Chinese tea ceremonies and afternoon tea, it’s a great way to spend time with others who understand what you’re going through and get support.
Get in touch with our Older Person’s Specialist Nicky Rowlands if you’re interested in coming along.
9. Become a Dementia Friend
If you want to absolutely nail Dementia Action Week, become a Dementia Friend – a massive initiative to make the world a more dementia-friendly place.
All you have to do is complete a quick online course and then you can help educate other people and better understand what people living with dementia are going through. Plus you get a cool badge.
10. Ask for help
At the end of the day, if you’re experiencing dementia, know someone who is or just want to help fight the disease, it’s always best to ask the experts.
Get in touch to discuss how we can help you