Dementia is a chronic progressive condition caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. It manifests as a decline in memory, reasoning and judgement, language and visuospatial abilities. It interferes with the person’s ability to function on a day to day basis, and may cause added symptoms of change in mood, personality or behaviour.
It is estimated to affect 800,000 people in the UK, and the numbers are due to rise. It costs UK society £26 billion per year, more than heart disease, cancer and stroke put together, and is characterised as a global health and social care crisis.
There are multiple causes, the commonest being Alzheimer’s disease, and Vascular dementia. It is now known that the pathological changes of Alzheimer’s disease are present many years prior to the onset of symptoms raising the possibility of prevention and treatment at an early stage. In recent years there have been big improvements in understanding the basic science of Alzheimer’s disease but this is still to be matched by improvements in treatment and care. There is no cure for dementia and the current drugs have limited symptomatic benefit.
At Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust we conduct high quality, ethically approved, peer reviewed clinical studies which aim to make a difference to the quality of care and treatment that people receive in the future. There are more than twenty studies on the portfolio ranging from straightforward observational/questionnaire studies to more complex treatment studies, with recruitment of people with different types and severity of dementia.
Rohan Vanderputt, Older Adults Consultant Psychiatrist with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust