Monday, 28 July 2014

Falling out of bed

S fell out of bed the night before last at 3 a.m. This has happened once before, probably a year ago, and I had moved furniture to make it more difficult.

It was very scary.  All kinds of things went through my mind.  I was pretty sure she hadn't done any damage.  She walked to the bathroom O.K. after I had got her up on her feet.  I didn't want to put her back into bed until I'd had a chance to work out a foolproof system for averting a fall so I made a bed of folding duvets on the floor. 

Pretty quickly she appeared to be sleeping peacefully and occasionally snoring.

But I didn't think I should sleep in case she'd done some damage that wasn't obvious.

After getting some reassurance from members of the Alzheimer's Society Talking Point forum (yes, at 4a.m.!) I decided it probably was O.K. to sleep.

Next day I let her sleep a bit later and once awake she appeared 'normal'.

But it could have had a very different outcome.

I'm determined it won't happen again.  I've moved a chest of drawers so that the back of it, lengthways, is right up against the bed.  I'm sure this will work but I'm aware that there are various aids available to ensure safety in these situations and I'm going to try and speak to an Occupational therapist about them.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The passport photo

A couple of days ago, I realised that S's passport had expired.  I could not believe it was 10 years ago that we got the last one.  It was a bit scarey as, for the benefit of non-UK readers, our passport service has been extremely inefficient recently (probably because the Government cut their budget for staffing).  We are due to go off on a foreign trip in our small motorhome in five weeks.  Normally passports are issued within three weeks of an application but, to be reasonably confident that we would get her passport back in time for the holiday, there was a bit of  a panic  -  which S was spared (one of the small compensations of living with dementia is that these crises seldom register).

I was able to complete and sign the application form on her behalf but there was the small problem of the new photo.  Clearly a photo-booth would not work.  In a booth on her own there would be little chance that a usable photo would be produced.  We settled for a small photo shop not far from the house.  Fortunately, my stepdaughter accompanied us, though she did have to cope with her own 6 month-old daughter, just to complicate the situation.

The shop was very small and there was a queue.  We waited quite a while.  Then as we were starting to try and get the photo done, more people came in.  The female photographer was very nice and patient.  Both S's daughter and I were trying to get her to open her eyes.  S was in no way intentionally unco-operative. It was just that for some reason she would not open her eyes.  I've mentioned before, I think, that much of the time her eyes are closed or half-closed. Usually, she will open them when asked.  Anyway, it looked pretty hopeless and she also nodded her head up and down from time to time which certainly didn't help.  Eventually, the photographer said she would deal with some of the customers (who were showing signs of impatience) and try again.

The second attempt was just as difficult but then somehow the photographer caught her with her eyes open.  She looked at the picture before printing it out, made a few adjustments and said that it would be acceptable.  Whew......

I wonder what people who can't get a good photo, for whatever reason (e.g. a tremor) do?

Anyway I took the photos and the form into the Post Office where they do a 'check and send' service, for a small fee.  The clerk accepted it all and sent it off.

Now we wait.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

If anyone out there needs dementia help

It occurs to me that it might be useful to post links to two extremely valuable sources of help and support which I may have mentioned before. These particular links will be of use to English readers only.

Admiral Nurses Admiral Nurses are mental health nurses specialising in dementia. Admiral Nurses work with family carers and people with dementia, in the community and other settings. Read more here:

Towards the bottom of the page there's a link to a direct phoneline number in case you don't have Admiral Nurses based near you.

The Alzheimer's Society can also be very helpful.  This link will help you find your nearest branch:

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Alzheimer's 'breakthroughs'

These come along pretty regularly and are announced, and re-announced, with great fanfares.

The BBC have run with three of them, as main news headlines, in about a week. First there was the 'new' blood test (which has certainly been mentioned before). Here's an interesting take on it: 

This morning the main headline on the Breakfast Programme mentioned two tests, one which would involves cells from the eyelids and one that would test sense of smell.  There doesn't seem to be a current online link but a Google search suggests that both have been mentioned by the BBC before.

Of course, the 'small print' always tells you that the tests won't be ready for general use for years, if at all.

And it's sadly also the case that there is no cure for Alzheimer's  -  existing treatments, at best, help with some symptoms but cannot slow down the progression of the disease.  Between 2002 and 2012 99.6% of trials of drugs aimed at preventing, curing or improving the symptoms of Alzheimer's failed or were discontinued. (BBC website article)

So these really aren't breakthroughs in any meaningful sense.  Unless you regard thousands of people knowing they are destined to develop a terminal disease as a breakthrough.

Friday, 4 July 2014

A deeply moving story

This dementia related story is becoming an online sensation and many people in the UK and beyond will be aware of it, but I didn't want anyone to miss it so here it is:

I don't think any further comment from me is necessary but please feel free to comment yourself if you wish.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Comments on Cameron's latest speech about dementia

As promised, some thoughts about the various points he made:

'The prime minister was speaking to an audience of 300 experts who have pledged to find a cure by 2025.'

Here again we find the all too common confusion.  Have the experts really pledged to find a cure for dementia (i.e. all forms of dementia) by 2015? This seems very unlikely since, as we have mentioned several times on the blog, dementia can be caused by a wide range of different diseases and conditions.

'He said there was a need to develop more drugs and get them to patients more quickly. For that to happen, international collaboration and more money for dementia research was needed, he said.'

It's impossible to argue, though one has to say that unless the 'new drugs' are a lot more effective than current ones they won't get us close to any 'cures'.

''He added: "Something like £50m a year is being spent on dementia research, rather than the £590m spent on cancer. It is important to see dementia as a disease and one that we need to better understand so that we can tackle it." '

Again, dementia is called a disease  -  you'd think someone would tell him, wouldn't you?  But there's no denying that much more money needs to be spent on research.  And there needs to be a broader approach so that it's possible for researchers to obtain funding for work on neglected approaches rather than chipping away at the same coal-face as every other researcher.

' "So much of this is about making sure hospitals and care homes treat people with dementia better and, absolutely crucially, that we build dementia-friendly communities where all of us try and understand better what it's like to live with dementia," he said.'

Amen to this.  But, although there is a long, long way to go, my experience is that almost wherever you go there's a growing number of people who have some understanding of dementia.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Some interesting ideas from Oxford

My daughter-in-law in law spotted this article and very kindly sent it to me:

Most of the interesting article is about how Oxford University is trying to co-ordinate its research into dementia and bring together different disciplines with an interest in dementia:

Approaches to dementia, Mackay explains, have hitherto been fragmented between the different disciplines of gerontology, neurology and psychiatry — the latter two branches of cognitive science having diverged more markedly in the UK than in other countries. OxDARE aims to enable a more holistic approach, with the emphasis on translational neuroscience. This process of ‘translation’ involves bridging the gap between research laboratories and clinical settings, bringing science ‘from bench to bedside’ as Mackay puts it. 

This looks like a promising approach.

Another thought-provoking extract:

While dementia is chiefly associated with memory loss, it can involve cognitive impairment of all sorts, and ultimately describes a set of symptoms rather than a single disease. Psychologists are still debating whether there is a difference in kind rather than degree between dementia and regular old-age memory loss, which comes to us all. Since the physical differences in the brain that define Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease are currently visible only upon autopsy, much research is being devoted to finding ‘markers’, from brain scans or blood tests, which will bring forward the point of diagnosis.

For now, there remains an uncomfortable, but ultimately humanising, sense that we are all subject to those small but significant memory lapses – magnified in the endearing stereotype of the scatty Professor – that place us somewhere on the same continuum as those who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s. We owe it to those who are further down that line to name and face the reality of dementia, and give the research endeavour our fullest support. 

One cannot help agreeing with the conclusion.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Cameron's latest speech about dementia

A previous post (which has by far the most page views on AWD) discussed the Prime Minister's useful acknowledgement that Alzheimer's is a disease:

Now, over a year later, he has addressed the subject again:

I want to deal with this in more detail when I have the time so I'll just point out that he unhelpfully calls dementia a disease (which it isn't  -  see:

The comments underneath the article are the usual mixture of the insightful, the ill-informed and complete tosh.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Alzheimer's or dementia?

Someone asked online: What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?

I can understand why the question was asked as the two names are often used interchangeably.

Dementia is not a disease but a set of symptoms which are a feature of many diseases, perhaps the most common being Alzheimer's.

There's a lot more than can be said but that is the basic difference.

It is very confusing that 'Alzheimer's' is used so often when actually 'dementia' is far more appropriate.

I was reading the blurb for the Alzheimer's Show which is coming to Manchester (isn't that's a bit odd, by the way, a 'show'?) and is described as 'the UK's only dedicated exhibition and conference for families and professionals caring for a person with dementia'. So why isn't it called 'The Dementia Show'?

A very unhelpful and unnecessary confusion, I would suggest.

A sad and disturbing story - An update

Here's the original story:;postID=1838612873523825894;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=9;src=postname

For our readers abroad and for anyone else who may have missed it, here is the latest:

There are as, always in these cases, many questions left unanswered.  Why did it take three months to reach this conclusion?  Why was he arrested and kept without food and water for seven hours?  Why was he not questioned until late at night? Etc.

I will be watching for any further developments or statements, perhaps in three months.  But I won't be holding my breath.  He is, after all, just a poor and powerless old man of 83.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A pleasure to post this

So often, I read or hear about negative attitudes to people with dementia. Follow this link to see a short video which gives the other side of the story:

Heartwarming Video

There was also, incidentally, a recent online discussion which showed the UK police in a very favourable light in terms of their dementia awareness and willingness to help (this at a time when the UK police are under a lot of pressure because of their failings in other areas).

Friday, 23 May 2014

Maybe some people are worrying unnecessarily about their chances of developing dementia

I was quite shocked to find that a friend's mum and dad (both in their eighties) shared the assumption that her daughters (in their thirties) were bound to develop dementia.  This was based on the fact that both the friend and her mother developed dementia but ignored the fact that each of them had an entirely different kind of dementia.

I mentioned this to my step-daughter.  As S's mum had vascular dementia, we had discussed it before and I had found reliable information online suggesting that the number of people who will almost certainly develop dementia as a result of their genes is fairly small.  After our latest conversation she sent me a PDF document from Alzheimer's Research UK entitled 'Genes and Dementia' which I feel is pretty reassuring.

You can see the document by following this link: