Last week I went to Professor Sube Banerjee’s inaugural lecture (named “Dementia:Reasons to be cheerful”) at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. I don’t think I am the target audience but I still gained something from it. It has been well written up here by someone with a more academic/medical background.

One of the most interesting things I took away was about using quality of life as a measure of successful treatment. This makes a lot of sense. And is a refreshing change from any other measures I’ve seen. A key thing I hadn’t realised was that the majority of dementia patients present many illnesses. This shows how important it is to take a holistic approach to the treatment. For instance, some standard anti-depressants aren’t shown to affect dementia sufferers in the same way as non-dementia sufferers. Mum was diagnosed with dementia and diabetes at the same time, and did have some incidents of depression. I hadn’t considered before either how common this was, or what the impact of the combination of these would be.

The word makes a difference

An interesting observation from Professor Banerjee was about the naming of the disease. In the Japanese language, the name of the disease was a combination of the terms Idiocy and Stupidity. Little wonder that there was stigma attached to having a diagnosis. They renamed it to be a combination of the terms Cognition and Disorder. And as a result more sufferers came forward. There were a few mentions of the stigma being the same as that for cancer in the late 70s. This is something that I have heard mentioned a few times in the last few weeks. And an internet search finds this 2012 report from Alzheimer’s Disease International focussing on Overcoming the stigma of dementia.

The lecture was well delivered, and I found Professor Banerjee to be engaging, and interesting. And yes, I did leave the lecture theatre feeling cheerful. Feeling that maybe a dementia diagnosis doesn’t have to be the most depressing news ever. There is a long way to go, but I left feeling optimistic.