Do you have questions about dementia? If so, you’re not alone.
Singer and actor David Cassidy recently revealed he’s been living with dementia, following a series of performances in which he appeared to forget song lyrics and stumble off stage – sparking concern amongst loyal fans.
The 66-year-old former Partridge Family singer said he’s been battling dementia, an illness which his mother and grandfather also lived with.
Following his memory loss and disorientation, Cassidy made the decision to stop touring and focus on his health and happiness.
He said: “I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been, without any distractions… I want to love. I want to enjoy life.”
We asked Alzheimer’s Society to answer the most common questions around the condition.
What is dementia?
Dementia describes a group of symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by a disease. It affects daily life and is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.
There are many different diseases that cause dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease but other types of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronototemporal dementia (Pick’s disease).
I’ve started forgetting things: does that mean I’ve got dementia?
Forgetting things doesn’t mean you definitely have dementia. Everyone is forgetful from time to time and it can be an annoying part of everyday life, rather than something more serious.
However, memory loss is the most common symptom of dementia. So if you find your memory is getting noticeably worse, or forgetfulness is affecting your daily life, make an appointment to see your GP. They can help you rule out problems that have similar symptoms to dementia (like depression and thyroid deficiencies) which can be treated.
The earlier you seek help, the sooner you’ll know what you’re up against and can get the information, advice and support you need.
I’m worried about someone else, what can I do to help?
It can be worrying if someone you know is showing symptoms of dementia. Maybe they’re finding it hard to remember the right word, or becoming confused when they’re in a familiar environment. Perhaps they’ve started behaving out of character. Other people may also have commented that they seem different.
If you’re concerned about someone close to you, encourage them to visit their GP. You could share your concerns with them over a cup of tea. Start the conversation by gently asking them if they’ve been feeling any different from usual, or are struggling with anything.
You can also call our National Dementia Helpline (0300 222 1122) to talk about your concerns, or suggest they do for reassurance and support.
How will dementia affect my life?
Living with dementia is a challenge – for the person with dementia, and for their family, friends and carers too.
When someone is diagnosed, their plans for the future might change. They may need help and support with everyday tasks or to keep doing the activities they enjoy.
Everyone will experience the condition in their own way. How it affects someone over time is unique to each individual – their own attitude, relationships with others and surroundings will all have an impact. But dementia won’t change who they are. With a positive outlook and the right support, it’s possible for someone with dementia to live well and still get the best out of life.
Is dementia hereditary?
No. Most people don’t inherit dementia from another family member. There are exceptions, but these tend to be with rare forms of dementia, or when someone develops the condition very young.
Having a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s disease may increase your chances of developing the condition very slightly, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.
Are there any treatments that can help?
There’s currently no cure for dementia. In some cases a doctor will prescribe drugs that can help with symptoms for a while. However, with the right treatment, advice and support, many people who have the condition lead active, fulfilling lives.
People with dementia should be offered the chance to attend groups or take part in activities that may help them, or anyone caring for them, to better cope. At Alzheimer’s Society we encourage people living with dementia to think about their future, and support them to plan ahead with friends and family.
For more information about life after a diagnosis visit alzheimers.org.uk/dementiaguide or phone our National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122
Alzheimer’s Society is asking people to confront dementia head on. If you’re worried that you, or someone close to you, might have dementia, Alzheimer’s Society can help – call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or visit www.alzheimers.org.uk