Great progress has undoubedtly been made in our understanding of what dementia is. We know that dementia describes a range of symptoms that may include memory loss and trouble with thinking, problem-solving and language.
However, there is still so much more to be learnt about the biological processes affected by dementia, and how these can be prevented or slowed down. It is 15 years since new medication was developed for Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. These medications do not stop the death of cognitive brain cells, or symptoms worsening.
The big steps that still need to be made in these areas have become a political priority in recent years. In 2012, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, challenged the UK to find a treatment or cure for dementia by 2025. Then, in 2015, Cameron launched his ‘Dementia Challenge’, which set out plans to make the UK the world leader in dementia care, research and awareness by 2020.
Alongside political progress, there is more that we can all do to further our understanding of the biological processes affected by dementia, and the ways that these can be stunted. In order to start a medication programme at the appropriate time, people need to know about their dementia early.
One way of achieving this is to partake in international clinical trials. These allow individuals to access advanced diagnostic tests, which help determine ‘biomarker levels’ for dementia, as well as new, innovative medications. For example, it was reported at the end of 2016 that an Alzheimer’s drug had been developed by researchers at pharmaceutical giant Merck, which ‘switches off’ the production of proteins that lead to damaging sticky plaques in the brain.
Encouraging people to act in good time is all part of seeing dementia as a ‘new paradigm’, where treatment is given once the biological markers of dementia are detected, rather than the symptoms. This allows medication to have a greater impact over a longer period of time, giving those with dementia the prospect of a longer, happier life.
This chimes with the ultimate aim of Cameron’s 2020 ‘Dementia Challenge’ to create a society “where every person in the country receives high-quality, compassionate care from diagnosis through to end of life care.”
Gracewell plays a leading role in achieving this mission. Gracewell homes provide high-quality, personalised residential care, assisted living, nursing and specialist dementia care services, as well as respite care. To find a Gracewell home, or for more information, contact us today.”