Dealing With Dementia. Can technology help defuse the dementia time bomb?
Dealing With Dementia
Losing your identity
Dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing. It is an umbrella term for the symptoms of around one hundred different brain diseases, that cause problems with memory, mental agility, language skills, understanding and judgement. Alzheimer’s is certainly the most common, accounting for nearly two-thirds of cases.
44 million people worldwide now have dementia, and the figures are expected to triple by 2050, as the global population ages. In the UK alone, dementia currently affects more than three quarters of a million people, with the annual cost of care per person greater than the average salary.
Although some medical treatments are known to slow the progression of some types of dementia, there is currently no cure. Round-the-clock help is often needed, but for many a live-in carer is not affordable or practical. So scientists have started to look at ways that technology can support people with dementia and help them live independently for as long as possible.
How people live with dementia today
Dementia affects everyone in different ways. Dementia sufferers often struggle to remember recent events, follow conversations or find the right word for something. They may forget names, repeat themselves, and can become confused about date and time. For example, they may wake in the middle of the night and get dressed, ready for the next day. As dementia progresses, the person’s behaviour may change, in a way that seems unusual or out of character. They may start asking questions repetitively, pacing, and having changes in appetite or disturbed sleep patterns. In later stages, the person may have physical symptoms including weight loss and muscle weakness.
Life for dementia carers
Over 40% of the UK population will know a close friend or family member with dementia, and although a third of people with dementia live in a care home, that leaves two thirds being cared for independently. Live-in help is so expensive, so many sufferers have informal care, allowing them to live in their own home for longer. Family carers save the UK over £8 billion per year. For the carers it can be rewarding – but it can also be life changing and demanding. Some burn out, or run into financial problems caused by the costs of caring or having to give up work. Having an awareness of dementia can empower carers and family members.
For more information please click the link to BBC iWonder