understanding the risks
by Mary Jordan
When I was asked to review this book, I was a little concerned about part of the wording of the title – “avoiding dementia”? Is that really possible?
Certainly maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help. But can it actually prevent dementia, or merely delay onset? As is very clearly stated in the book, dementia is not part of the ageing process, and that certain types of dementia can develop in younger people. In many cases dementia can be caused by other underlying conditions. Taking action to prevent or control these conditions, could well help to avoid dementia.
However, the book doesn’t just cover possible ways to avoid dementia, but also what to do if it is diagnosed. This is certainly helpful, both for the person with dementia, and their families.
Mary draws upon research carried out around the world, to illustrate how certain factors such as healthy lifestyles, exercise and diet, may help reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Other, less obvious factors that may also contribute positively towards avoidance are good levels of education, variety in lifestyle, social contacts and leisure pursuits. She also covers the effects of a number of factors which may increase the risks.
Where dementia is diagnosed, exercise again plays an important role, though from personal experience as a carer for my Mother, who has vascular dementia, and very limited mobility, this isn’t always possible. Maintaining a nutrient rich diet can also help, and the use of full-fat milk, eggs, cheese, butter, and oily fish on a regular basis is encouraged. Reading this was heartening, as when my Mother was discharged from hospital in late 2012, having suffered a serious UTI, it was my intention to wean her off the food supplements she had been prescribed. This I did gradually, and she now enjoys the same, non-processed, hearty meals as me.
The effect of a head or brain trauma as a contributory factor is also investigated, as is stress, psychological trauma and even PTSD, all of which appear to increase the risk of developing dementia. Illnesses and diseases - such as heart and vascular disease and diabetes, along with many others - can also be a trigger. Treatment and control of these conditions may again help prevent, or at least delay the onset of dementia.
The last chapter covers actions to be taken when someone is worried they may be developing dementia. These range from what to do and who to see for diagnosis, and how to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible after diagnosis. The chapter closes with a simple statement, perfect for both the person living with dementia and their family – “get the most out of life everyday”. A wonderful piece of advice, and something I personally follow on a daily basis. Enjoy every moment, every smile, share the laughter, and share the journey.
Also included is a glossary of terms used, and an appendix containing a description of different parts of the brain, how they may be affected by dementia, and what some of the symptoms and effects might be.
For those wanting to know more about dementia, the underlying causes, how to try to avoid it, or how to live with it, this book is certainly a good reference point. Whilst not everyone will develop dementia, and some may well avoid it using the advice provided, some may not - there is however, sufficient information to be of use to those who are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with the condition, and also to help their families and carers acquire a greater knowledge and understanding about dementia, and help their loved one lead as normal a life as possible.
Mary Jordan has experience on both sides of dementia care - as a carer to friends and relatives, and professionally through her work with a national charity; she daily supports people with a diagnosis of dementia, together with their carers. For many years she worked for the National Health Service and has also served in the Armed Forces. In addition to articles and papers published in medical, nursing and social care journals, and general magazines, Mary is also known for her books The Essential Carer's Guide, The Fundholder's Handbook and the award winning End of Life: the Essential Guide to Caring.