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Dodging dementia - what are the chances?


Debbie Thrower spotted a helpful book thanks to an interview in the Church Times recently featuring author Mary Jordan. She writes:

'With so much fear around the topic of dementia here is a book which reassures; giving us a layman's guide to what is happening in the brains of people developing memory loss as well as tips for cutting the risks of going on to receive a diagnosis of dementia.'

'I was struck when reading the interview, in the February 9 edition of Church Times , how knowledgeable Mary is on the subject. For many years she has led support sessions for people with dementia and for carers. She founded the business Adapt Dementia and cares deeply about spiritual care for people experiencing memory disorders.


'In general, not enough attention is paid to helping their spiritual health' says Mary. 'Care homes often ignore this side of things. I'd like to see care homes welcome ministers and religious leaders into the home, invite them to hold services and invite residents to attend. Even non-churchgoers often love a religious service, and many enjoy singing hymns.'



Before I got in touch with her having reading the article, Mary said she had never heard of Anna Chaplains. Likewise, I was unaware of Adapt Dementia until that point, so now we are in contact and swapping information.


The new edition of her book, first published in 2013, Dodging Dementia - Understanding MCI and other risk factors (Hammersmith Health books, 2024) includes sections exploring the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people with dementia. When research shows how important good social networks are for people's wellbeing as they age, it is deeply concerning that so many people with memory loss were denied access to family and friends during the pandemic years.


It was fascinating to read the extent to which higher levels of education seem to make a difference to the risk of developing dementia 'along with the variety of life experiences, breadth of social experiences and contacts and continued pursuit of activities which expand the mind'.


Education plays a significant role in 'upholding "attentional" capacity. In other words, formal education helped those with dementia to better retain the ability to pay attention, Given that a short attention span is a major problem in early-stage dementia, this research is significant.'


According to Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk) 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 (547,000) in the UK have dementia.


There are factors such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption explored (curiously, current research indicates that drinking no alcohol and drinking more than the recommended guidelines both raise your risk of dementia). Being obese raises the risks, as does using illegal recreational drugs, and taking a large number of prescribed medical drugs (polypharmacy).


What's more, Mary would like to see much more research conducted into the effects of surgery on people who go on to be diagnosed with dementia. Anecdotally, she sees numerous men and women coming to her classes who have undergone, sometimes, several operations and their decline can be dated from that period onwards, according to relatives.


Mary writes that it is, 'sometimes difficult for people to understand that dementia is not a mental disease as such', though she adds, 'some forms of mental illness are risk factors for dementia.'


Adapt Dementia provides training, information, support and counselling for carers, health care professional and others responsible for making life better for people with dementia. There are one-to-one personal assessments and rehabilitation on offer, as well as tutorials for carers. At present these take place in the Farnham area of Surrey, but Adapt Dementia would like to expand more widely.


What's clear in relation to all the work she and her team undertake with families coping with dementia is that people with the disease are still the same people as before. 'Personhood doesn't change,' she says, emphasising the value of good spiritual care.

'I have seen a bed-bound client completely uplifted after a visit from her minister of religion. I have also experienced hospitals who delay calling a priest even after they were requested to do so. I frequently visit care homes, and always ask how they support the spiritual side for their residents and usually get a vague answer. Of course there are exceptions.'

Mary and I are delighted to now know of one another's work in this field, and we intend to meet in person soon, as we don't live far apart from one another in Hampshire. I am writing about Anna Chaplaincy for a forthcoming Adapt Dementia newsletter and in the meantime, if you would like to know more about the services they offer, do visit the firm's website, https://www.adaptdementia.com/ '


 


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