Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, aiming to raise awareness globally and challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. In Bristol there are more than 4,000 people living with dementia, with as many as 3,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Our loved ones are our world and our world changes when we, or someone we love is told ‘you have Alzheimer’s disease.’ For anyone who is living with Alzheimer’s or supporting a loved one with the illness, we know that Alzheimer’s is more than ‘just’ losing memories or becoming forgetful, or simply just ‘getting older.’
Some people live well with the disease for several years and more, others simply will not. Alzheimer’s will progress too quickly, and the person will lose their memories and their ability to live a healthy, independent and full life.
Unlike cancer, there are no treatments to halt and stop the disease, no chemotherapy, no surgery to remove Alzheimer’s from the brain, no opportunities for a recovery. Across the city, dedicated dementia researchers are working hard to develop medications, treatments, and better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
BRACE Dementia Research, a leading local charity, has been funding important research in Bristol since 1987 with the aim of one day, defeating dementia. BRACE has supported the development of an early, accurate and fast Alzheimer’s diagnostic test, Fastball. The test has shown promising signs of accurately diagnosing the disease years before noticeable symptoms.
Why is early diagnosis important?
To stop Alzheimer’s, researchers need to be targeting the disease at the earliest possible stages and this test offers hope.
The Fastball test is now being researched at the Bristol Brain Centre, thanks to the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) who have provided additional funding to the researchers who invented the test. If positive and accurate results are produced on a large scale, then the Fastball test will be developed for wider use across the NHS.
If researchers can accurately study Alzheimer’s years earlier than previously possible, which the Fastball test may be able to do, then it changes how the disease can be tackled and how treatments, including drugs, can be developed and how soon these can be offered to people living with the disease.
The new Alzheimer’s drugs hitting the headlines are an exciting breakthrough, showing positive research results in slowing down the disease, but there is still more work to be done, and perhaps Fastball may play an important part in this work.
Alzheimer’s and loved ones
While no one wants to receive the news ‘you have Alzheimer’s,’ an early diagnosis also gives an individual, and their loved ones, time to prepare and to choose the next phase of life.
What do they want to do, see, achieve in the next five years? Travel the world or make adjustments to their home to live there independently, for as long as possible, are just a few priorities.
Research also shows that lifestyle choices can protect the brain for longer, even once an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is given, such as stopping smoking, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.
I sincerely hope that in my lifetime there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s. We must keep talking about it, supporting people living with the disease and investing more into dementia research.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s
If you are living with Alzheimer’s, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or interested in learning more, I encourage you to join BRACE at their free Let’s Talk Dementia event on Saturday 30 September between 10am and 5pm.
The free public event at Paintworks is a chance for families to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia in a friendly setting. Meet dementia experts, therapy dogs and enjoy many other family friendly sessions such as visiting the inflatable brain dome for a short show, or take part in an art session.
Tickets are free and it is recommended to book in advance: www.alzheimers-brace.org/events/lets-talk-dementia