Why exercise in older age is more important than ever…

Only 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 get enough physical activity. Yet, more and more research seems to be suggesting that to maximise your chances of staying healthy and living well with dementia, you need to engage in activities that are going to stimulate you both mentally AND physically.

Now recent research in Finland has added weight to the growing body of evidence that suggests that exercising into your 70s and beyond can drastically reduce the risk of falls that result in broken bones and other serious injuries.

For women the risk of injury is made worse by osteoporosis,or thinning bones, which becomes common when production of the hormone oestrogen declines after menopause.

To study the effect that exercise could have for women in reducing their risk from falls, researchers at the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research in Finland took a group of 149 women aged 70 to 78 years at the start of the programme and divided them into groups to undertake a programme of supervised workouts 3 times a week for one year. Some did balance training, some strength training to build up muscle tone, some a combination of the two, and some no exercise at all.

After five years of follow up, 61 women had a total of 81 fall-related injuries.

Compared to the women who hadn't exercised, the participants who had followed the programme of combined balance and strength training had a 51 percent less fall-related injuries and 74 percent less fractures, the study found.

Doing only balance workouts, or just strength training, didn’t appear to reduce the risk of injuries or fractures. It was the combination of both types of exercise that proved most beneficial.

The findings bolster previous research that has already proved that improving balance and muscle strength is an important factor in protecting against fall-related injuries. But interestingly, this study goes on to suggest that the benefits lasted even when the intensive physical activity stopped.

Saija Karinkanta, Lead author of the study, draws the conclusion:

“It is useful to train a little bit harder and intensively so that your physical functioning really improves. After that, you can maintain the benefits with lighter, less intensive exercise.”

As the saying goes, Its never too late to start.....and if intensive training may seem a step too far, even low impact work-outs such as walking, swimming or Tai Chi can all help.

Article courtesy of www.compassionatecareforall.org

Supermarket plastic bag levy to benefit dementia research

If, like me, you found yourself cursing at the supermarket checkout this week when you realised you'd forgotten your carefully prepared pile of re-usable shopping bags, you can at least be cheered by the knowledge that each of those 5 pences you had to fork out, will be destined for a worthy cause.

​From 5th October, compulsory charges for single use carrier bags were introduced to encourage recycling and reduce pollution. Supermarkets have to pay out 0.83p of the 5p charge in VAT, but are expected to donate the rest to charity.

Asda, Waitrose, Iceland and Morrisons have joined forces to announce they will donate the profits from bags to support the construction of a world-class dementia research centre at UCL in London.

By coming together and pooling the money raised, the 4 supermarkets hope to raise as much as £20 million in the first year alone.

The research centre at UCL is estimated to cost £350 million to build and currently has a spending shortfall of £100 million which it is hoped the money from the supermarkets will go some way to reducing.

The Dementia Research Institute will bring together researchers from across UCL and UCLH to lead national and international efforts to find effective treatments and improve the lives of those with dementia.

UCL have guaranteed that no overheads will be taken from the money raised, so all funds will go directly to support dementia research.

Dementia already devastates the lives of far too many families across Britain – we urgently need to find more effective ways to prevent, delay or treat the diseases that cause it. There are real prospects for progress if we bring together the most able scientists and clinicians and support them in their research. This remarkable initiative by some of the UK’s leading supermarkets could make a real difference to accelerating that research.
Professor Nick Fox
UCL Institute of Neurology

Despite government commitments to find a cure for dementia by 2025 and ever -increasing public awareness, the amount of funding for dementia research remains a fraction of the amount spent by cancer charities each year, so this boost from the 4 big supermarkets is very welcome.

It’s enormously encouraging to see major retailers with huge influence over the public putting themselves forward to help solve the dementia challenge.

With a global aim to produce a disease-modifying treatment that can bring relief to people with dementia by 2025, dementia research has big ambitions and will need big initiatives to realise them.

Hilary Evans  
Chief Exec, Alzheimer's Research UK

Article courtesy of Local Dementia Guide first published 11/10/15

How you could help dementia research

As the number of families affected by dementia grows ever greater, public awareness of the need to prioritise dementia research is at last coming to the fore. And Government pledges, championed by David Cameron​, to identify a cure or disease modifying treatment by 2025, is now helping to increase the impetus for new research. 

Recruiting willing research volunteers

Although dementia charities report more people willing to take part in research than ever before, researchers still find recruiting volunteers time consuming and expensive. Professor Rowan Harwood, Dementia researcher at the University of Nottingham explains, 

"A big issue is that data protection laws do not allow researchers to approach people with dementia directly - we need your permission to be told what diagnoses you might have, and in many respects that is very wise. But it does prevent research."

Join Dementia Research

To make the process much easier, the NHS has launched Join Dementia Research - a website designed to encourage people to take part in research studies and make it much easier to match volunteers with potential research projects.

The short NHS video clip below explains more...

Researchers are always in need of volunteers. Whether you have a diagnosis of dementia or are fit and healthy, you may be able to help.

For further information, click here to visit the Join Dementia Research website.

10 helpful ways to ward off depression

The links between depression and dementia are deep-rooted. Many of the symptoms are shared between the two, and too often, people just assume that the problems they are experiencing are an inevitable part of their dementia and something they must just put up with.

But help is at hand

In fact however, treatment for depression is not only available, but often proves very effective for those in the early and mid stages of dementia.

Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of all those diagnosed with one of the many forms of dementia will experience a period of depression at some point. Apathy, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, social isolation, trouble concentrating and sleeping, and general withdrawal are all signs of depression. Often though, the cognitive impairment caused by the dementia hampers the person’s ability to articulate their feelings adequately, making it difficult for them to seek the help they need.

The first port of call should  be the GP, who will be in the best position to explore the best possible options for drug medications, counselling and complimentary therapies.

The most effective treatment is likely to be a combination of medicine, counselling and activities that bring about reconnection with the people and activities that bring happiness and contentment.

Nobody can beat depression alone, but with the support of family and friends, try these proven successful ways to boost mood and combat isolation:

  • Plan a predictable daily routine.
    This can provide reassurance and help schedule activities the person finds challenging at the time of day they are best able to cope. 

  • Celebrate small successes and occasions.

  • Seek out local support groups 
    These can be a huge source of help both for the person with dementia and their carer. It can be a huge source of comfort to know that you are not alone in dealing with this and there are others in a similar position. They provide a valuable source of information and access to other services and support available locally. Groups can provide fun and meaningful activities geared specifically to those with memory and cognitive problems, and are a great way of maintaining social contacts.

  • Plan in regular exercise, particularly in the mornings, as this can be a fantastic mood enhancer.

  • Make a list of activities, people and places the person enjoys.
    Try to visit/incorporate these more frequently into your diary.

  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings and frustrations while continuing to express positive messages about how you hope they will feel better soon.

  • Provide lots of reassurance the person will not be abandonded.

  • The right music can really lift spirits so make a playlist of the person’s favourite songs to listen and sing along to.

  • Find ways the person can contribute to family life and remember to recognise his/her contribution.

  • Talk to one of the national charities offering support and advice.
    Admiral Nursing Direct provides dedicated dementia support- their telephone Helpline is open Mon to Fri 9:15am −4:45pm and on Wed and Thurs evenings 6-9pm on 0845 2579406.
    Or Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point provides a means of asking questions and seeking support from others in a similar position - visit their online forum on their website.

“Use it or Lose it” says leading dementia expert Professor June Andrews

In determining the way dementia develops in an individual, lifestyle is often more important than genetics, warns Professor June Andrews, Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, she told the audience that the "use it or lose it" approach is therefore the key to keeping the brain active, engaged and healthy into older age.

"Get out there and start doing puzzles, or bingo...

Professor June Andrews

“It’s a combination of genetics and life. Absolutely use it or lose it. Get out there and start doing puzzles, or bingo, or anything just do something for your brain. We do know that if you have more brain development then you have more resistance to dementia."

Professor Andrews described meeting a woman in America whose five siblings all had dementia, yet the ones who had been to university had developed the condition a decade later than the ones who had not.

“The idea in Scotland, where we have got almost half of the young people going to university now, you might say what’s the good of a degree in social networking but the person has been made to sit exams at a certain level so we might find 60 or 70 years from now that that might help with a reduction in dementia.”

She warned that the condition is often misunderstood and contradictory research had misled people into believing there could be a single cure. Prof Andrews said: “Dementia is a cluster of symptoms, so dementia includes that memory loss that everyone talks about, but it also includes difficulty in working things out, difficulty in learning new things".

“These are all the symptoms but the diseases that cause all of these things are varied.”

The main risk factor for dementia is simply growing old, she warned, so dementia rates seem to have risen in line with ageing population.

However she welcomed research published last week by Cambridge University which found the dementia levels might be stabilising. She said:

“Either we started from the wrong number, and we were overestimating all the time, or, and I find this much more interesting and exciting, it’s possible that the kind of advice in this book is being followed by people, and so there is an easing off of the number of people affected.”

Some inherited dementia is not affected by lifestyle choices but improving vascular health through exercise and diet was “really looking like it was starting to make a difference” among many elderly patients, she added.

Article originally published in The Scotsman 26/08/15

Professor Andrews has recently published a highly recommended book on how to make it possible to live well with dementia :

Dementia: The One-Stop Guide
Practical advice for families, professionals, and people living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Click here to read a book review​

Making a Life Memories Book

Making a Life Memories book is one of the most fulfilling activities families can possibly do when a loved one is facing the challenges of dementia.  

The idea is a simple, yet powerful, one. 
It involves collecting together lots of photographs from the person's past, encouraging them to reminisce and talk about their life, and then recording all these memories together in a home-made book. 

While dementia often diminishes short-term memories, memories from further back in the past are often stronger, so given encouragement and stimulation, it is often surprising how responsive and engaged people can become. The emphasis of course is on what they can remember, rather than what they can't, and the positive feelings this evokes can really help boost self-esteem in the person with dementia and  brighten the mood of everyone involved.

The video below produced by the Dementia Services Development Centre team at the University of Stirling, shows a fantastic example of just how much can be gained through the making of a Life Memories book. The project has clearly been a hugely enjoyable one for both Ann and her Mother, Mary. As they look through the book they have made together, the bond they share through reliving Mary's memories is heartwarming to see.

Once made, the book can be referred to over and over again to stimulate memories, and encourage interaction. It can help future carers get to know the person as an individual, and ultimately it is likely to become an heirloom to be passed down to future generations.

To find out more about how to go about making a Life Memories Book, the Alzheimer's Society have produced an excellent 4 page guide which contains all the information you need to get started. Download it from their website by clicking on the link button here:

Mental verses Physical – which activities are more important for enriching older brains?

Keeping the mind sharp and the body active have to be the key goals for all of us as we get older. But with the press reporting on what seems like an endless stream of studies and reports that extol the virtues of one particular form of activity or therapy over another, it can become all too easy to get swept up in the hype.

So, is one activity better than others at warding off the symptoms of dementia ?

Should we be prioritising mental stimulation over physical exercise?
Or is physical fitness more beneficial than the mental challenge of problem-solving puzzles?

The answer is a resounding NO according to a research study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Mental AND physical exercise prove equally valuable in the quest to keep thinking skills in, and dementia out.

In the American study, 126 seniors were divided into groups with each group embarking on a programme of either computer activities, aerobics, watching educational DVDs or stretching exercises. At the end of the 12 week trial, the participants from all groups demonstrated improved thinking scores.

What surprised researchers was the lack of any real difference in improvement between groups. When it comes to stimulating the brain, it appears that it is not the type of activity that matters, but the amount of it.

This research reinforces numerous studies, conducted in both the US and UK, that have demonstrated the benefits of both mental and physical exercise on brain function.

Evidence suggests that older people who take physical exercise regularly display less brain shrinkage and brain lesions which can indicate dementia. It’s therefore likely that physical activity, by stimulating the production of blood vessels and new brain cells, increases the volume of the parts of the brain responsible for memory and thinking.

Similarly, activities that provide mental stimulation such as crosswords, playing chess, reading the newspaper, participating in clubs and pursuing hobbies also improve cognitive health as people age.

As a result most health experts now agree that a common sense approach of maintaining a balance of both mental and physical activity is the best way forward, recommending aiming for two and a half hours each week of moderate intensity exercise combined with mental exercises to stay sharp.

Adjusting to a Diagnosis of Dementia

A diagnosis of dementia can feel like the end of life as you know it. But it needn’t.

Senior Picking flowers 800px

Although the news is just as shocking for family and friends as it is for the person diagnosed, it’s important for everyone to remember that it is possible to live, and LIVE WELL with dementia for many years.

The key to coming to terms with the range of emotions you’ll be experiencing is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. As Nina Balackova – an inspirational Czech lady who spoke about her own experiences of dementia at the Alzheimer Europe Conference in 2013 – said “You can’t choose what you feel, but you can choose what you do with it.”

The amount of information and support available is growing all the time so here are our suggestions for some helpful places to find reliable and easy to digest information and advice. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it will hopefully give you some valuable starting points.

The Alzheimer’s Society www.alzheimers.org.uk is an obvious place to begin, whether you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or one of the many other forms of dementia.

Particularly helpful sections on their website are:

– Factsheets which provide detailed information on an enormous range of subjects and lists of where to gain further information and support.

– Online Forum which gives you access to a safe online community where you can ask questions, share your experiences with others in a similar position, and receive advice and support 24 hours a day.

– Local Information about services and support groups in your area.

– E-Newsletters which you can subscribe to for free to keep you updated with the latest news and information.

– Alzheimer’s Society YouTube channel where you can watch video clips of real people sharing their personal experiences.

“DEMENTIA : The One Stop Guide” is a recently published book by Professor June Andrews, with the aim of providing practical advice for families, professionals and people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (Published by Profile Books, February 2015)

Professor Andrews is Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling where she has gained a well-deserved international reputation for her work to improve the lives of those affected by dementia.

Her sensible, no nonsense and easy to relate to approach in this book makes it a truly valuable read. It is well laid out so you can dip in and out of the chapters you find most relevant, and she answers the most pressing questions you’re likely to have without bogging you down in jargon or unnecessary detail.

Chapters include: How to keep dementia at bay, Managing care at home, Disturbing behaviours, Your dementia-friendly home, What you should expect from the social care system, and many more.

I must point out that we have no commercial interest in this publication, but recommend it simply because of the quality, reliability and up to date information it provides. It’s a truly helpful read in our opinion and is worth every penny. It can be purchased from Amazon by clicking on the image below or DSDC’s own online bookshop at www.dementiashop.co.uk

NHS Choices – Care and support guide www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/Pages/what-is-social-care.aspx
This is a valuable resource providing information for carers on a whole range of issues including how to fund care, benefits that may be available to you, how to get a carer’s assessment, how to access breaks and respite care etc.

Your local GP surgery will be able to advise you on services and support groups available in your locality. Services do vary from area to area but help from a range of professionals may be available, such as Occupational therapy, specialist dementia nurses (Admiral nursing teams), or Social Care teams, and your GP will be able to help make the necessary referrals.

We hope these suggestions prove a useful starting point for you. As one contributor to the online forum at the Alzheimer’s Society put it, “this is a road that nobody chooses to go down, but the more educated you are on what’s happening, the more accepting you are of what’s going on”. Try not to let anxiety about what may happen in the future dominate your thoughts. Take things one step at a time and keep your focus on managing the present.

In future emails we’ll endeavour to focus in on particular aspects of care that may prove helpful to you.

As always, if there is something specific you want to know please reply to this e-mail with your question and we’ll be delighted to help.

Warmest regards,

The Team at Dementia Care Swindon