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Dementia – What not to say?

For somebody living with dementia, language and communication can become more difficult over time.

How and when language problems develop will depend on the individual, as well as the type of dementia and the stage it is at. While the person living with the condition may have issues with recall or finding the right word, the words that other people use are important too. A poor choice of language can be both hurtful and frustrating.

Good communication can be key to helping somebody to live well with dementia. Here are a few of the words and questions to avoid in conversation.

To find out more about the 7 things not to say to somebody with dementia visit the Alzheimer’s Society website

Hospitals have made important changes to improve dementia care says the National Audit of Dementia.

ALZHEIMER'S SOCIETY LOGOThe National Audit of Dementia, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP) today (Thursday 13 July 2017) found hospitals have made important changes to improve dementia care, but staff say more support is needed.

Hospitals in England and Wales have made many positive changes aimed at making hospitals more “dementia-friendly”, the audit shows. Overall nearly 70% of carers rated care as excellent or very good, and 75% said that the person with dementia was definitely treated with respect by staff.

Many more hospitals are providing dementia awareness training to all groups of staff, and 96% have a training framework for dementia care, up from 23% in the first round of audit in 2011. Nearly all hospitals (94%), have created dementia “champions” to lead change and support staff, following former recommendations. Staff however said they could not always access specialist support, especially out of hours.

To read more visit the Alzheimer’s Society website

Therapies that target dementia in early stages critical to success

Dementia targeting in early stages

Targeting dementia in the earlier stages of the condition could be critical for the success of future therapies, say researchers from the University of Bristol, who have found that the very earliest symptoms of dementia might be due to abnormal stability in brain cell connections rather than the death of brain tissue, which comes after.

A collaborative study between researchers from Bristol’s School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, and the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company, studied the behaviour of synapses, connections that help transmit information between the brain’s nerve cells, in a rodent model of human frontotemporal dementia over the course of the disease progression.

Using cutting-edge microscopy techniques the team were able to image inside the brains of rodents and found that, even before the disease causes synapses and neurons start to die off, the synaptic connections already display unusual properties.

In normal brains, a small percentage of the synapses are constantly added and lost as the brain learns new skills or makes new memories. However, in brains with dementia these percentages were quite different; the team found some synapses were very unstable while others were almost frozen. This imbalance in synapse stability was linked to changes in the way neurons were activated while the brain was working.

Their findings, published in Cell Reports, reveal that, while dementia is closely linked to the death of neurons in the brain, it is the connections between these neurons and their synapses that are impaired in earlier stages of the condition. The study highlights that the very earliest symptoms of dementia might be due to this abnormal synapse stability rather than the death of brain tissue, which comes after.

Dr Mike Ashby, lead author of the study at the University of Bristol, said “The need for new treatments for dementia has never been greater, but our ability to make effective new drugs has been hampered by the fact that we don’t yet fully understand the causes of this debilitating group of diseases.

“Because neurons are so closely dependent on their synaptic partners, it is possible that the changes in synapse stability could be actually part of the reason that neurons begin to die. If this is true, then it points towards new therapeutic strategies based on treating these very early abnormalities in synaptic behaviour.”

Dr Mike O’Neill, Head of Molecular Pathology at Lilly Research Laboratories, said: “The data were one of the most comprehensive longitudinal assessments of the detailed mechanisms of synapse dysfunction in a model of tauopathy in vivo. The in vivo 2-photon technique is very powerful, but is slow and labour intensive to carry out and the collaboration with Bristol has allowed us achieve this dataset in a rapid and effective way.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “This new study adds weight to the growing body of evidence suggesting that synapses become disconnected before nerve cells themselves die. By using sophisticated microscopes, the Bristol team has gained valuable new insight into the stability of synapses and how this affects communication between nerve cells.

“There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia including over 4,600 in Bristol alone. Researchers the world over are hunting for ways to tackle the diseases that cause dementia and protect nerve cells from damaging disease processes. As well as improving our understanding of how synapses are affected in dementia, these interesting findings will help inform future research into drugs that could help keep nerve cells healthy for longer.”

New study suggests Mediterranean diet may have lasting effects on brain health

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A new study shows that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely.

The study is published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers gathered information on the eating habits of 967 Scottish people around the age of 70 who did not have dementia. Of those people, 562 had an MRI brain scan around age 73 to measure overall brain volume, grey matter volume and thickness of the outer layer of the brain. From that group, 401 people then returned for a second MRI at age 76. These measurements were compared to how closely participants followed the Mediterranean diet.

A Mediterranean diet includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains such as wheat and rice, moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine, and limited red meat and poultry.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘There is an increasing amount of evidence to indicate that eating a healthy diet that’s rich in oily fish, fresh veg and nuts is good for your brain and can help to maintain your memory as you get older. Our brains shrink by 1-2% per year in old age and this study suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet could also potentially help to slow down this shrinking process.

‘While the evidence suggests a Mediterranean diet can help keep your brain healthy as you age, we can’t yet say that it prevents dementia. What’s good for you heart is also good for your head and a healthy lifestyle that features regular exercise, a balanced diet and not smoking can help to lower your chances of dementia.’