There are around 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK – and the number is projected to rise to nearly 1.6 million by 2040.1
The biggest risk factor is age, as dementia mainly affects people over the age of 65. But dementia isn’t a natural or inevitable consequence of ageing. The term is used to describe common symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding, caused by damage to cells in the brain. It is progressive and, as yet, there is no cure.
Dementia affects more women than men. In fact, the leading cause of death for females in England and Wales in 2021
was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.2
Of course, the condition does not only affect the person with the diagnosis. It also has a big impact on the estimated 700,000 unpaid carers of people living with dementia, many of whom are looking after a family member, such as a parent or spouse. ‘It is both emotionally and physically exhausting and can leave some carers with little energy or enthusiasm for anything else,’ according to a report by Alzheimer’s Research UK.3
"Caring for someone
with dementia isn’t easy"
A recent advertising campaign by the Alzheimer’s Society highlights some of the particular challenges of caring for a partner with dementia, how it alters the dynamics of an intimate relationship and tests a couple’s commitment.
They are challenges that Dr Cordelia Galgut knows only too well, as her wife and partner of more than 40 years has Alzheimer’s. In Losing My Partner to Alzheimer's Cordelia describes with unflinching honesty the physical and psychological devastation inflicted by dementia on the couple. Cordelia also suggests how counsellors can best support someone whose partner has dementia. It’s not an easy read. But caring for someone with dementia isn’t easy. It does, however, give us access to an emotional landscape that is not often open to exploration.
As Lead Psychologist for Westminster Older People’s Services, Liam Hallett understands the complexities of supporting someone who is losing a partner to dementia. But as he explains in Losing My Partner to Alzheimer's, the therapeutic task can, in some ways, be quite simple: we need ‘…to be an active, authentic and human presence in the experience of the client’.
The couple relationship is at the heart of a structured intervention by Tavistock
Relationships that aims to help people with dementia and their partners to manage the trauma of the diagnosis. In Dementia: caring for the couple Andrew Balfour writes about helping the couple to identify and preserve the protective aspects of their relationship.
We tend to associate dementia with old age, but it can affect people under the age of 65, too. In Drama and dementia, Dr Clive Holmwood, Dr Alison Ward and Dr Gemma Collard Stokes tell us about a research project to study the impact of drama workshops, based on neuro-dramatic play, on people with young-onset dementia and their caregivers.
Many people took up gardening during the pandemic, perhaps with an intuitive understanding that it would benefit their
mental health. Mike Morgan wonders in Nurture in nature whether we could all make creative use of green spaces to support our psychological wellbeing. It’s an uplifting article that will hopefully entice you out into the garden, whether professionally or personally.