By Fiona, posted on 4th June 2012
When I was invited to attend Oxford Health NHS FT’s Health Matters talk on Dementia recently, as part of the Science Oxford Live talks, I think I was really in two minds about attending. I had a particular interest to attend, as I have family members affected by the condition and was keen to learn and understand more about it. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the talk had the potential to be quite downbeat, simply due to the awful nature of the illness, in as much as it is a degenerative condition, and the amount of heartache it can cause sufferers and their families.
I’m glad I attended as it was a fascinating talk. I was particularly interested to learn that there are four different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is clearly one of the types that is well known, but I didn’t know much about the others. It turns out that there’s also Lewy Bodies, Vascular, and Frontotemporal (also known as Pick’s disease). I was also very surprised to learn that there are around fifty causes of dementia. I don’t think I could tell you what they all are! But you can probably guess many of them, ranging from strokes, alcoholism, medications, other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, tumors etc. Interestingly, (though perhaps something I’d rather not know), is that that the main factor of risk of precipitating dementia is genetic, with a 50% chance of developing the condition if a direct family member also suffers from it. Holding my half full glass of water, I felt reassured that the odds were evenly matched. The statistic was also put in context when speculating on other statistics raised in the talk, and the number of factors influencing these. For example, in relation to the number of diagnoses in different areas of the country, it was revealed that Dorset in particular, has a very high population of people living with dementia in comparison with Glasgow for instance; we sensibly concluded more people would be likely to move to the South to retire, in addition to a whole range of other factors!
At the end of the talk it was touched lightly on the topic of research. This is something I was hoping to hear more about and so it was a shame this part of the talk had to be cut short in the end due to timing, but goes to show just how much there is to say and uncover with dementia and so much to discuss. Some of the members of the group also helpfully suggested that it would be good to hear suggestions and guidance for those who care for someone with dementia in terms of management and support. One of the key points I took away from the talk is the amount of awareness and work being done, particularly in the last 5-10 years that highlights the continuous progress being made, and the hope for the future, but that there still seems to be a lot of unknowns. With an ageing population, and the high costs of this condition, including both the financial and emotional strain, I think it is fair to say that there is still a lot more to be done, and there is clearly a need for continual investment in research and resources to continue to make sufficient headway.
Thanks to Oxford Health NHS FT, Science Oxford Live, and the speakers for an enjoyable and thoroughly interesting event.