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6. Dementia facts

At the current estimated rate of prevalence, there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK in 201514. One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and two-thirds are women. This figure is increasing because people are surviving historic killers such as heart disease and cancer and living longer. It is estimated that, by 2021, the number of people with dementia in the UK will have increased to around 1 million and doubled by 204015,16.

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest cause but there are others, such as vascular dementia17. Symptoms include problems with memory, thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding and judgement.  People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, and may have problems expressing and managing their emotions, especially in relation to an inability to fully process or communicate what they are thinking or what they want. 

Individuals with these conditions may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socialising, and aspects of their personality may change. A person with dementia may lose empathy or believe things that are untrue. As dementia affects a person's mental abilities, they may also find decision making, planning and organising difficult. Maintaining independence may also become a problem18.  

People with dementia are not a homogenous group, not all the symptoms manifest in each person or in the same way. The severity of symptoms may vary and progress over time. In addition there are a range of other factors that can influence how an individual experiences dementia; including their personality, biography, physical health, environment, and social and cultural factors19.

Scientists understand less about dementia than they do about heart disease or cancer and there is no cure at the present time, although, if it is detected early, there are ways of slowing down the deterioration and maintaining mental function. The challenge for healthcare workers and others is to support people living with dementia and their carers to manage symptoms and live as well as possible. Each person should be treated as an individual by radiography staff, whilst at the same time contextualising their experience within a broad understanding of the symptoms of dementia and how these may present difficulties within the radiography environment.

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