World Alzheimer’s Month

By Vanessa Chance

As September draws to a close, it is also the end of World Alzheimer’s Month, where Alzheimer’s charities and groups around the world campaign to help fight the disease. This year’s theme is the power of knowledge and the Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging everyone to learn more about dementia. From my own experience, I find most people just aren’t interested until someone they love has the disease and at that point, they may not be in a position to take the information in.

What we can all do is learn a little about the signs of dementia so that we can help spot it early and get our loved ones the help they need before it becomes too advanced. The Alzheimer’s Society says that the different types of dementia affect people differently, especially in the early stages. Other factors that will affect how well someone can live with dementia include how other people respond to them and the environment around them. A person with dementia will have cognitive symptoms (to do with thinking or memory). They will often have problems with some of the following:

  • Day-to-day memory – for example, difficulty recalling events that happened recently,
  • Concentrating, planning or organising – for example, difficulties making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks (such as cooking a meal),
  • Language – for example, difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something,
  • Visuospatial skills – for example, problems judging distances (such as on stairs) and seeing objects in three dimensions,
  • Orientation – for example, losing track of the day or date, or becoming confused about where they are.

A person with dementia will also often have changes in their mood. For example, they may become frustrated or irritable, apathetic or withdrawn, anxious, easily upset or unusually sad. With some types of dementia, the person may see things that are not really there (visual hallucinations) or strongly believe things that are not true (delusions).

If you know someone you love has dementia, attending a Dementia Friends session can be really helpful. These sessions are designed to be a fun, interactive way to learn a little about dementia and how it can affect people’s lives. Led by a volunteer Dementia Friends Champion, the session lasts 45-60 minutes and covers five key messages that everyone should know about dementia, through activities and discussion. They are a great way to bring people together to talk about the disease and ask questions without judgement. We have run these sessions at SEC Newgate, and I found it brought us closer together as so many of my colleagues had family who were living with it. You can sign up for a session here: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/WEBRequestInfoSession

For those in the insurance sector, Insurance United Against Dementia is preparing for the next Insurance Day of Giving which is on Thursday 4 November. The Insurance Day of Giving is a chance for the industry to unite to fundraise and raise awareness of dementia. Firms across the industry including Sedgwick, Willis Towers Watson and Crawford & Company have already committed to taking part this year.

This year is extra special as Zurich Community Trust (ZCT), Zurich’s charitable arm in the UK, has generously offered to champion the day through a matched funding scheme. ZCT will be match funding donations made upon sign up to the day and staff fundraising that is matched by firms up to £100,000. Last year many firms had to think out of the box to plan fundraising ideas but this year there is scope for office and face to face fundraising. You can sign up here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/events-and-fundraising/fundraising-work/insurance-day-of-giving

I am really looking forward to our own fundraising this year in the office. In the past we have paid by donation yoga classes, bake sales and sponsored running. It is great to see my colleagues get competitive for a good cause and really heart-warming to see their generosity too. This year will be extra-special as we can all be together in person again and no doubt we will break a new record on the fundraising too.