When we think about dementia, we think about memory loss, but it simplifies it a lot. To begin with, most people have heard of Alzheimer's disease, but there are other types of dementia.
They can affect reading and writing, movement and even the ability to follow a conversation.
There may be changes in behavior, mood and attitude. As Lynn Wallis' story of her mother this week shows in the Mail for Health section, dementia can completely transform a person. This makes it challenging for doctors to make a diagnosis, especially at the beginning.
There is no cure and very few ways to reliably delay the inevitable march of these diseases.
All these combined things can leave patients and their families feeling even more confused.
But that does not mean that modern medicine cannot help ̵
When we think about dementia, we think about memory loss, but it greatly simplifies it. To begin with, most people have heard of Alzheimer's disease, but there are other types of dementia. (File Image)
For a while, I was worried about my 68-year-old mother because she didn't look herself – she was even caught stealing, which is so typical. We are concerned about dementia, but the results of the memory test have returned to normal, so the doctor said there was nothing wrong. But I know there is.
Memory loss is only one aspect of dementia. These diseases can also cause changes in personality.
In the most common types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's, memory loss often comes first, then behavioral changes occur later. But about five percent of people with dementia will have something called frontotemporal dementia. The first and most prominent features are behavioral: loss of hold, change in likes and dislikes, inappropriate social behavior and unusual rituals. The memory loss comes later.
Symptoms such as those described here should be discussed with her GP along with any history of depression or mini-stroke. More tests and brain scans, NMR, may be needed.
My husband has dementia. I often feel completely overwhelmed by all this and feel sad. I feel bad talking about myself since he is sick. But on bad days, I can't handle it, and I hate to admit, I want to run to the hills. Is this normal?
Absolutely. If you didn't feel that way, it would be crazy. Every caregiver role is incredibly stressful, no matter what the situation.
You are grieving for the partner you have, along with fear for the future and daily fatigue from worry.
I urge anyone who feels this way to register with their GP that you are a tenant and to look into what assistance is available. There are consulting services in many areas so you can talk about how you feel.
There may also be some social care or care assistance. The Carers UK charity (carersuk.org) also offers excellent advice.
Ever since Dr. Eli Cannon on The Mail on Sunday …
My 67-year-old wife was diagnosed with sed two years ago with dementia. She was relatively active, but now rarely leaves the house. After reading that exercise is good for dementia, I tried to offer a walk, but she refused. What else would you suggest?
Exercise is really important: it reduces isolation, increases confidence and bone strength, and can even improve memory and slow decline. It's worth exploring what's available in your area – such as t & ai chi or specific adult classes.
Your local authority will be able to tell you what is available and may have a local budget for "social prescription" that is worth asking your GP. This will allow her to go to a suitable session at no cost.
Gardening is an option as it involves exercise and safe movement. And the exercises can be done without leaving the house – use your favorite music to get her to dance every day.
The Alzheimer's Society (alzheimers.org.uk) has some great ideas for sitting exercises.
My father sees himself in something called a memory clinic. No one has said the word "dementia", but I think it's him.
We refer patients to memory clinics for the diagnosis of dementia and for treatment. If dementia is not suspected, staff are usually referred to patients. Some patients have memory changes caused by treatable conditions, such as vitamin B12 deficiency.
That said, dementia is not an easy diagnosis. Determining which dementia a patient has (there are six major types) may take a while until the scan results return.
Until staff have all the information, they will not accurately identify the diagnosis or use the word "dementia". They should tell you this, but if you are not, you should ask to have all the information.
Dementia is not an easy diagnosis to make. Determining which dementia a patient has (there are six major types) may take a while until the scan results return. (File image)
I was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's and a friend told me I needed to enroll in a clinical trial so I could get new treatments. How to do this – are there any risks?
The surest way to do this is through Join Dementia Research (join dementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk). It's like a matchmaking service: you join by registering online, then they will inform you of the relevant surveys they are recruiting.
These may include drug tests, scanners, or even genetic tests. But it is important that your expectations are realistic: there is definitely no guaranteed way to receive new treatments. Trials may include the use of medicines that already exist, for example
Left untreated, hearing loss is thought to increase the chance of developing dementia.
My father passed away earlier this year with dementia. I have witnessed firsthand how challenging the condition can be, I worry that I will get it when I am older. Can dementia be hereditary and can I be tested to see if I can get it?
Genetics play only a minor role in dementia. Most people who develop Alzheimer's disease do not have a known genetic mutation. There is a small group of people who develop Alzheimer's disease at a younger age and this can be genetic and manage families. But for most of us, it's not just genes, it's a combination of risk factors.
Diabetes and smoking appear to increase the risks, as well as lack of exercise and loneliness.
My husband was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year and I was very afraid to ask his specialist how much time he had left.
This is a very difficult question to answer. On average, people with dementia usually live between three and nine years after being diagnosed. There is a huge range as there are many different types of dementia and, of course, it depends on the health of the background.
Within this time of survival, it is also difficult to judge how the disease will progress. We talk about the stages of dementia as early, moderate or severe and each of these stages lasts for about two years before it progresses.
In the early stages, planning is important: financial, care and health. This will include the registration of a power of attorney (gov.uk/power-of-at lawyer) and a directive on advanced care – living will.
Visit compassionindying.org.uk for details.
My mother was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago. Is there a special diet that will help keep your brain healthy?
Is it important for people with dementia to get enough calories. Sufferers tend to lose weight due to appetite and changes in behavior. They are also very susceptible to dehydration if they forget to drink. Eating regular meals is a priority.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLY?
Email DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk or email Health, The Mail on Sunday, Derry Street 2, London, W8 5TT.  Dr. Eli can only answer in a general context and cannot answer individual cases or provide personal answers.
If you have health problems, always consult your doctor.
My wife has long been suffering from type 2 diabetes, and last year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Her memory is getting worse, so it becomes harder for us to manage both conditions. What should we do?
It's difficult, but it's actually quite common. Type 2 diabetes in middle age or later life increases the risk of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's by 50 percent. The physician's assistance in managing this is crucial.
The treatment regimen should be simple but sufficient to control diabetes: a box with compartments indicating which pills to take at what time of the day will be essential.
Referring to a nutritionist is also helpful – this would help you to establish a diet for your wife that is helpful for her diabetes but which she can also enjoy despite her dementia.
How a song puts a smile on Barbara Windsor's face
Last month, Scott Mitchell, husband of Lady Barbara Windsor, says her memories "come back" when she sings
plays a significant role in so many life events.
Almost everyone has a song or two that reminds them of a special moment – and this can often be combined with powerful emotions.
Last month, Scott Mitchell, husband of Lady Barbara Windsor, says her memories "come back" when she sings.
The veteran actress was diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago, but Scott says music causes happiness in the 82-year-old.
This is so important.
Managing dementia is not only about care and pills, but also about pleasure and empowering patients and carers – this is obviously therapeutic for Barbara.
And it's just as vital that she and Scott have fun together as a couple, something that is all too often thrown away with dementia.