850,000 people in the UK have dementia (according to the Alzheimer’s Society), with one in six aged over 80. Although there is no cure, early diagnosis can help ease the symptoms, which include behavioral changes and memory loss.
The symptoms can be divided into three main stages. It can take years to progress from mild to serious, and each person will develop them at a different rate.
The NHS state that the most common early symptoms are memory lapses including:
Forgetting place or object names
Forgetting recent conversations
Regular repetition or asking the same question several times
Poor judgement and finding it tough to make decisions
Forgetting events or whereabouts of household items
Becoming less flexible or resistant to trying new things
There may also be mood changes, increased anxiety or confusion.
As the disease develops from the early stage, memory deteriorates further, with names of loved ones harder to recall. Even recognising friends and family can become difficult.
Senior figures from Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dementia UK, and Alzheimer’s Scotland have urged the health secretary to put dementia “at the heart” of health plans for the next 10 years.
“We are deeply concerned that dementia has not been recognised in these top areas of focus,” the charities write, describing dementia as “the greatest health challenge of our time”.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia takes a huge amount of resource for the NHS – one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia, and the condition currently costs the UK economy more than cancer and heart disease combined. It’s imperative that our health system is able to respond to the challenges dementia poses today and in the future, and we must begin by placing dementia at the heart of its priorities.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We remain committed to making this the best country in the world for dementia care, support, research and awareness.
“NHS England is committed to offering support for patients diagnosed with dementia and over the last few years has seen the diagnosis rate increase from half, to more than two thirds of patients, enabling earlier care and support.
“We maintain a focus on diagnosis and support for people with dementia and their carers, as we develop the ten year plan.”
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