What does the word dementia mean to you? Most people associate dementia with memory loss or confusion. Whilst dementia can often start by affecting short-term memory, this is not the only way it reveals itself; it can also affect the way people think, speak, feel and behave.
Dementia merely describes the range of symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by disease.
The brain is the most complex part of our body. It helps us to make sense of the world around us, store our memories, enables us to problem solve, make decisions and communicate. Any illnesses that affect the brain can have devastating effects, including memory loss or the decline in a person’s ability to think, reason, problem-solve or manage day to day.
It is important to remember that each person’s experience of dementia will vary depending on what part of their brain has been affected.
Symptoms are often minor to start with but can become severe enough to affect daily life.
People often think of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as two separate conditions. However, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for approximately 60 - 70 per cent of diagnoses.
According to Alzheimer’s Scotland statistics, there are currently more than 7,500 people in Edinburgh and more than 90,000 people in Scotland diagnosed with dementia. However, it is likely that there are many more people living with an undiagnosed condition.
As our population ages and lives longer, it is expected that one in three people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime. So, as a society we need to learn how to enable people with dementia to continue to live well post-diagnosis.
Living a healthy lifestyle, including eating well and being regularly active, is important for everyone, including people with dementia. But, according to Anna Buchanan, director of the Life Changes Trust dementia programme, ‘many people living with dementia stop taking part in activities that may have given them pleasure in the past, or which allowed them to mix with their peers’.
Physical activity can play a key role in reducing stress and depression, common symptoms for people with dementia, as well as being one of the best ways to help prevent it or slow the progression of symptoms.
Edinburgh Leisure understands the positive impact that physical activity can have on people’s health and wellbeing and has recently received funding from the Life Changes Trust to deliver a project called Movement for Memories. The aim is to enable people living with dementia and carers to experience the benefits of physical activity.
Edinburgh Leisure’s specialist Active Communities team will work with dementia communities to develop a range of activities, such as dance, chair-based classes, fitness classes/circuits, walking, golf, swimming and racquet sports.
These can be delivered both in Edinburgh Leisure venues and community spaces, providing people living with dementia with the opportunity to find the activity which best suits their needs and ability.
Active Communities will organise one-to-one consultations with individuals to determine what level of support is required and how activities can be tailored to maximise independence, choice and well-being.
A Dementia-friendly Buddy Service will also be developed where volunteers will provide support to enable people with dementia and their carers, where appropriate, to confidently access these physical activities.
Whilst not every person diagnosed with dementia will need a carer, it is important to recognise that some will, and Movement for Memories will also support carers to become more active for their own health and wellbeing.
At Edinburgh Leisure we see the positive impact that physical activity has on people’s lives and as such we are excited to be working with the Life Changes Trust to develop Movement for Memories. It is our goalthrough staff training and planning, to create environments which enable people living with dementia to confidently access physical activity.
We want to break down any myths about dementia and support people to live well with dementia. For more information about Movement for Memories, contact 0131 458 2260, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.edinburghleisure.co.uk.
Sam Scott is a health development officer within Edinburgh Leisure’s Active Communities’ Team.