Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dementia sufferers set to benefit from group’s surprise £5k award

Dementia sufferers set to benefit from group’s surprise £5k award

Mayor Isobel Hunter officiall opens Dementia/Alzheimer support group, Alz cafe
Mayor Isobel Hunter officiall opens Dementia/Alzheimer support group, Alz cafe

A weekly ‘open door’ support and social group for people with dementia and their carers has been awarded a “surprise” £5000.
The funding will allow the group, Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Active Mind and Body, to widen the range of available activities for a full 12 months and help with transport to ensure the inclusion of dementia sufferers living in remote areas.
Engage Mutual customer Linda Sneddon applied for the funding from the Mutual’s Foundation, which has set aside £1m as an exclusive benefit for its customers to make their lives and communities better.
Although only Engage Mutual customers can nominate a community project for funding from the Engage Foundation, the public are encouraged to show their support via an online vote, with winning projects decided by the highest number of votes.
When the winners of the final round of community funding for 2014 were announced last month, the Berwick group unfortunately just missed out. But the Engage Foundation Advisory Panel - a panel made up of customers - decided to pool remaining funds from the year to create an additional community award.
Following a panel vote, Linda was overjoyed to be told that the Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Active Mind and Body project would receive the valuable £5,000 funding after all.
She said: “This has come as a huge surprise and a tremendous boost for us all.
“We run a weekly support and social group for people with dementia – and their carers – and this award means we can introduce a range of dementia-friendly activities such as art and craft sessions as well as music and movement, all known to be beneficial to dementia sufferers.”
She added: “There is a dearth of dementia-specific support groups in and around Berwick aimed at those living with early to moderate stage dementia.
“In addition, there is very little public transport suitable for people with dementia, and now we can help those vulnerable people who otherwise cannot use public transport, attend the session through use of community transport and volunteer drivers, offering much more flexibility and scope.
“This is really important because we’re located in a remote rural area and so operate an open door policy, welcoming people from both sides of the English/Scottish border.”
As a mutual organisation, Engage is owned by, and run for, its customers.
The Engage Foundation was set up to provide customers with personal grants, and awards for community projects.
Customers can apply to help what matters to them in their corner of the world (the communities in which they live). All customers need to do to be considered, is apply.
The funding pot is made possible due to the financial stability of the customer-owned organisation which provides life and health insurance, and a variety of savings products.
Nigel Hunter, Head of Community at Engage Mutual, said: “When we set up the Engage Foundation earlier on in the year we did so with one overriding objective: to enable customers to benefit from the financial success of their business.
“We think it’s great to be able to help a community project or a good cause that our customers feel passionate about.
“We wish everyone at the Berwick and District Friends of Dementia all the very best with their valuable work and will enjoy catching up with the group to see how the funds help them improve things for local sufferers of dementia and their carers and families.”
He added: “And if there are others in the Berwick area, both individuals seeking personal grants and community groups looking for funding, then all they need to do is visit”
Berwick and District Friends of Dementia runs a weekly support and social group for people with dementia and their carers, and will use the additional funding to introduce a range of dementia friendly activities such as art/craft sessions, music and physical activities.
It aims to create a stimulating environment for people with dementia and carers through increased mental and physical wellbeing, enrich lives and strengthen relationships.
The community award will allow Berwick & District Friends of Dementia to use appropriately skilled group workers to facilitate twice monthly sessions and buy suitable resources for the sessions.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Children open up about dementia in CBBC documentary

Children open up about dementia in CBBC documentary

Alzheimer's Society has been working with the BAFTA award-winning documentary series My Life which returns to CBBC on Wednesday 4 February 2015 at 5.30pm.
'Mr Alzheimer's and Me' follows three young people who tell their stories of living with grandparents who have dementia.

Joshua, 11, from Essex, is very close to his grandad, Derek, who has Alzheimer's. Josh is scared that one day his grandad won't remember him, so he creates a special memory box of photos and items from Derek's past to keep the memories alive. Josh, Derek, and Yvonne (Derek's wife and carer) are also media volunteers for Alzheimer's Society.
Also featured is Hope, nine, from Cardiff who has been living with her Nanna, Mary, since her Mother died. Mary has Alzheimer's but Hope believes that one day her Nanna will get better. Mary knows her dementia will only progress and tries to prepare her granddaughter.
Elsewhere Ella, 11, from the West Midlands, visits her grandad who lives in a care home. He has Alzheimer's and needs constant care. Ella is keen to help so she completes a 10 mile sponsored walk to raise money for charity, and meets her proud grandad at the finishing line.
Speaking about the programme, George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer's Society said:
'Dementia can create some challenging situations for families. It is natural to want to protect children when a loved one becomes ill, however, it is important to explain to them what is going on.
'Mr Alzheimer's and Me' takes a positive and realistic approach through the eyes of children; presenting the emotional challenges faced when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. The programme is particularly positive in showing how the grandchildren can provide stimulation to their grandparents who have dementia. All of those featured are affected differently, but is clear how their grandchildren's support brings positivity to their lives. This emphasises that simply being with the person and showing them love and affection is the most important thing that the child or young person can do.'

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Do common drugs really cause dementia?

I am starting to wonder whether to believe anything we hear on the news these days. One day things are bad for us, then the next they are not sure if they got the information correct in the first place

Media reports of a recent study suggesting a wide variety of common drugs can increase the chances of getting dementia are more sensationalism than science
Woman takes a pill, Symbolic picture for: Medicine, medicine costs, pharmaceutics.
Side effects may include widespread neurological degeneration. Or not. Photograph: Ulrich Baumgarten/U. Baumgarten via Getty Images

If you looked at the news at all yesterday, you will likely have heard about a new study that claims an alarming range of common drugs - including Nytol and over-the-counter hayfever pills - can increase the risk of developing dementia in people over 65. The mainstream media have shown a disconcerting enthusiasm for reporting this finding, despite the fact that much of the coverage and claims made can be described as exaggerated at best, scaremongering at worst.
For example, the researcher speaking about the study on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier emphasised how antidepressants can cause a 50% increase in risk of dementia. But this only applies to a very old class of antidepressants known as “tricyclic”. Some people still get these in certain cases, but the vast majority of antidepressants prescribed today are more modern SSRIs, and no connection between these and dementia is made, so the simple claim that “antidepressants cause dementia” is somewhat alarmist.
There are plenty of other critiques to be made, such as how depression and dementia actually occur in the same person very often, so you’d almost expect older people on anti-depressants to be more likely to develop dementia. But perhaps more concerning than any issues with the research, is how can a scientific study with questionable claims, that many scientists would dispute, end up with widespread mainstream coverage, while countless more thorough and valid experiments get ignored?
Here’s a confession that you won’t normally see in a popular science blog, but if you’re not directly involved, most scientific studies are actually quite dull. Perhaps science in films and TV dramas has led people to believe that your typical scientific experiment produces unexpected or shocking results, leading the (suspiciously attractive) lead scientist to gasp and say something like “This changes everything!”
In truth, most studies last for weeks/months/years, and once the reams upon reams of data produced are thoroughly analysed (usually by sleep-deprived postgrads) the eventual conclusion is more like: “That overlooked minor process that is one of hundreds of elements of a more complex system? Well, it turns out it works slightly differently to what we thought”. You can see how such a discovery might be difficult to get publicity for.
So it may be understandable that we see scientists, or perhaps more accurately their institutions, exaggerating and emphasising the results of studies to gain attention, especially if their jobs depend on it. However, this drive for scientists to get publicity for research is increasingly criticised, and can go too far.
But scientists wanting the publicity is only half the problem; why do so many media sources seem so keen to cover stories like this? There are many possible explanations, many of which are quite cynical.
The simplest explanation is that on slow news days a science story can get a great deal more attention than you’d normally expect. It’s not like the latter half of January isn’t known for media focus on ridiculous, depression-related claims…
But in a more practical sense, a study of this nature is easily related to the general public that media outlets rely on to make money. It’s not about some unknown or poorly understood corner of science, it’s about common and everyday drugs that practically everyone will have taken at some point in their lives, and linking them to a well-known but deeply alarming neurological condition. Thus, it is relatable, and people will be keener to read about it as they believe it applies to them.
If we’re being generous, it could be argued that the extensive coverage of this story is the result of a sense of public duty. If you discover that a common substance is dangerous, the decent thing to do would be to warn as many people as possible, and surely the media wouldn’t hesitate to encourage the general public to stop any behaviour that might harm them, no matter how slim the actual risks?
That noise you can hear right now is the sound of every credible climate scientist on Earth laughing bitterly.
Sadly, you can’t rule out the likelihood of the classic tactic of scaremongering. It seems like nothing sells papers/generates traffic like striking fear into the populace, and it seems that’s happening with coverage of this story.
The study itself is rarely, if at all, linked to in any of the reports, but the general gist is that a wide variety of anticholinergic drugs show possible links to increased risk of dementia. But most reports decide to single out a specific type, as if nobody can agree which drug is the most innocuous and therefore most worrying in this context. Sleep remedies? Hayfever pills? Or perhaps just emphasising the “over-the-counter” nature of some of the drugs, despite most of the subjects being on prescription medicines for chronic conditions.
What’s the harm in any of this? So a few column inches/web pages were filled with not-strictly-accurate science, so what? Well, you could say exactly that about the MMR/autism “study” that got such widespread coverage, and now we’ve got an outbreak of a potentially-lethal virus in the happiest place on Earth.
This is what happens when supposedly trustworthy news sources opt for sensationalism over accuracy. Not everyone trusts “the papers”, but enough people do that they still wield considerable influence. Hopefully this story won’t trigger some sort of anti-drug movement comparable to the anti-vaccination ones, but it still has the potential to do great harm. People could be reluctant to take medications they genuinely need, already beleaguered GPs could end up with constant demands for alternative drugs and second opinions, and in the long term this could lead to dementia being viewed as somewhat self-inflicted. As friend and superior intellect Professor O’Neill of Ulster University points out, this sort of reporting serves to further shame and silence those with mental health issues. And these people don’t really need any more of that.

Dementia linked to common over the counter drugs

Dementia 'linked' to common over-the-counter drugs


Related Stories

A study has linked commonly used medicines, including over-the-counter treatments for conditions such as insomnia and hay-fever, to dementia.

All of the types of medication in question are drugs that have an "anticholinergic" effect.

Experts say people should not panic or stop taking their medicines.

In the US study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people.

The researchers only looked at older people and found the increased risk appeared when people took drugs every day for three years or more.
All medicines can have side-effects and anticholinergic-type drugs that block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine are no exception.

Start Quote

We would encourage doctors and pharmacists to be aware of this potential link ”
End Quote Dr Doug Brown from the UK's Alzheimer's Society

Patient information leaflets accompanying such drugs warn of the possibility of reduced attention span and memory problems as well as a dry mouth.

But researchers say people should also be aware that they may be linked to a higher risk of developing dementia.

Dr Shelly Gray and colleagues from the University of Washington followed the health of 3,434 people aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia at the start of the study.

They looked at medical and pharmacy records to determine how many of the people had been given a drug with an anticholinergic effect, at what dose and how often and compared this data with subsequent dementia diagnoses over the next decade.