Are you a Dementia Friend?

Hasnain Hassam, Pharmaceutical Specialist

When I first started to visit care settings to provide clinical advice to care staff, I was surprised to find how many service users really suffered from the effects of dementia. I knew it was prevalent but didn’t realise just how much it had affected previously healthy individuals. It was then I realised I had to do something to become more aware of this condition and what I as a pharmacist could do to support people living with dementia and their carers.

Becoming a ‘Dementia Friend’ is part of the Department of Health initiative for patients facing community pharmacists and their teams.

My team and I have completed our training and are very proud to call ourselves ‘Dementia Friends’. We each wear our Dementia Friends badge with pride and really want to let our patients living with dementia and their carers know that we are aware of their dementia and that we are here to help and support them in any way we can.

The Dementia Friends initiative is about giving people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living with dementia in their community. It has been developed by the Alzheimer’s Society, and is supported by Public Health England (PHE) and forms part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia.

The aim and purpose of this initiative is to help patient-facing pharmacy staff to learn a little more about what it is like to live with dementia and small ways we can all help people living with dementia and their carers. They can commit to turning that understanding into action in their day-to-day role in the pharmacy. These small actions by patient-facing pharmacy staff throughout the whole of England will make a huge difference to the lives of those living with dementia.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects how your brain works and the ability to remember, think and reason. It is not a disease in itself – but a group of symptoms that may accompany several diseases that affect the brain. The most common of these is Alzheimer’s disease. Another is vascular dementia which can develop following a stroke or mini-stroke, or if there is blood vessel damage that interrupts the flow of blood to your brain.

Dementia is now said to be the leading cause of death in England and Wales, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures. The ONS says dementia is overtaking heart disease as the leading cause of death due to the ageing population. In 2015, More than 61,000 people died from dementia, which accounts for 11.6% of all deaths recorded in England and Wales.

Common signs and symptoms of Dementia

In most cases, the symptoms that characterise dementia come on gradually and get worse over time, often over several years. Both the person with dementia and those around them may not even notice the signs or take them seriously for quite some time.

Symptoms can vary according to the disease causing them and from person to person. They affect your daily life and are more than just occasional lapses. Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Struggling to remember things that happened recently, even though you can easily remember things from longer ago
  • Struggling to follow conversations, particularly in groups
  • Forgetting the names of people or thing
  • Struggling to follow a story on television or in a book, or understand magazine and newspaper articles
  • Having trouble remembering the day or date
  • Having trouble remembering where you put something, or where things are kept
  • Being unaware that you are repeating yourself or losing the thread of what you are saying in mid- sentence
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Struggling to do things you used to find easy
  • Feeling confused even in a familiar place
  • Having problems controlling your mood, or controlling your emotions

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts, and talks about the condition.

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