Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK and it is thought that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year. That's one every three minutes.
At Clapham & Collinge we play our part in making Norfolk a more welcoming and helpful place for people living with dementia by holding regular dementia awareness sessions and training workshops to help raise awareness, understand what it's like to live with dementia and help create a dementia friendly community.
With Dementia Action Week 2019 taking place between 20th and 26th May, we have taken the time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions which arise during our training sessions.
What is dementia?
Dementia is the term which describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function, such as memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. There are numerous conditions which fall under the heading of 'dementia' and it is important to know the difference between them as each exhibit different symptoms so will be treated differently. We have highlighted the most common forms of dementia below.
Is dementia another name for Alzheimer's?
No, Alzheimer's is one of many forms of dementia.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 62% of those diagnosed. It is a physical disease which affects the brain as connections between the brain cells are lost. People with Alzheimer's have fewer chemicals which help to send signals between the cells so the signals are not passed on as well. Alzheimer's is progressive and so over time parts of the brain will become damaged, therefore the symptoms get worse.
What are other common forms of dementia?
- Vascular dementia
This is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels which in turn cause problems with cognition, i.e. your memory and reasoning. It is known a vascular dementia as the network of cells which deliver blood to the brain are called the vascular system. Approximately 17% of those living with dementia are living with vascular dementia.
A person living with vascular dementia may show cognitive symptoms such as having difficulty concentrating, planning or making decisions. They may also experience mood changes and it is common that they will suffer with depression and anxiety. As the disease progresses the person may become more emotional and become prone to rapid mood swings as they become severely confused or disorientated, which can lead to delusions and sometimes hallucinations. In the later stages of the disease the behaviour becomes less challenging as the person sadly becomes much less aware of what is happening around them.
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
This variation of dementia relates to the lobes of the brain found just behind the forehead which deal with behaviour, problem solving and controlling emotions. FTD occurs when the lobes are damaged and can result in changes of personality and behaviour as well as difficulties with language as the left lobe controls speech.
A person living with FTD may behave in an impulsive or socially inappropriate way, lose interest in people and things and lose empathy for others. They may also exhibit compulsive behaviours. Dementia currently affects over 40,000 people under the age of 65 in the UK, and this form of the disease is the most common in younger people..
- Mixed dementia
Around 10% of those living with dementia have been diagnosed with mixed dementia. It typically affected those over the age of 75. Mixed dementia, as the name suggests, is where the person is living with a combination of different types of dementia-causing disease, such as those mentioned above. The most common type of missed dementia is where a person is diagnosed with both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.
How progressive is dementia?
This can vary person to person, and also depend on the type of dementia the person is diagnosed with, and at what stage.
With a condition such as dementia, capacity can be fluctuating, so this means that the person living with dementia may be of sound mind one day, however not be the next.
Can someone still make legal documents if they have been diagnosed with dementia?
It is often a concern for someone living with dementia that once they have been diagnosed there are no longer able to make or change their legal documents, however this is incorrect.
As mentioned above, dementia and the severity of it can vary between each person, however provided a person has the mental capacity to make legal documents, they can do so despite having been diagnosed with dementia. It is a principle of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 that a person it not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practical steps have been taken to help them to do so.
The legal test for capacity to make a new Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) is decision specific and applied on a case by case basis. This means that whether an individual has capacity to make a new Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) will be very much dependant on their personal circumstances at the time of giving the instructions.
As capacity can fluctuate with a condition like dementia, people are said to have good and bad days, so it may be that more than one meeting is needed to determine if the person has the requisite capacity, and it is not uncommon for a solicitor to ask the person's GP to assist, should they have any concerns.
How can I get involved with Dementia Action Week 2019?
Dementia Action Week is an initiative set up by the Alzheimer's Society which aims to encourage people to take action to improve the lives of those affected by dementia.
Many people who are living with dementia have reported feeling isolated and worry that they may have to face the condition alone. This year they are championing 'Dining4Dementia' which gives people living with dementia the opportunity to volunteer at restaurants to show that with the right support, people living with dementia can still contribute to the workplace. The participating restaurants in your area can be found at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-action-week. Show your support, volunteer, or support a loved one who volunteering and visit one of the restaurants taking part on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May.
How can I learn more about living with dementia or helping a loved one who is living with dementia?
At Clapham & Collinge we hold regular dementia awareness sessions and training workshops to help raise awareness and help to create a dementia friendly community. We are part of the Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community and Norwich City Dementia Action Alliance .
Our next dementia training session is taking place on Wednesday 5th June from 3.30pm - 5.30pm at our Norwich office. Click here for more information or to book your place.
All of our lawyers are 'dementia friends' and so are experienced, knowledgeable and approachable to advise you the documents you may need if you have been diagnosed with dementia, or can provide you with advice and guidance on steps which may need to be taken if you have been appointed as an attorney for someone living with dementia and are unsure on your role.
For more information on the legal services we offer or to book your appointment please contact our Client Relations Team today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, and Sheringham offices.
*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.