Facts and tips you need to know about dementia
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | Blog
There’s over 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this is set to rise to two million by 2050, meaning many of us will come in contact with the disease during our lifetime.
With such a high dementia forecast predicted, it is vital we all recognise what we can do to support those living with dementia. As a society we must identify the causes and effects dementia can have on individuals and their carers, along with what families, friends and all of us can do to help fight the disease.
Dementia is the blanket term for a collection of different diseases that affect the brain's ability to function. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, followed by vascular dementia, but there are many different types.
A common misconception of dementia is that many people believe it is just a normal part of the ageing process, but the disease is the sum of multiple factors. It’s day-to-day habits that have the biggest impact on the possible development of dementia; the amount that people drink, smoke and eat, along with the amount of exercise they do, can all affect the chance of developing the disease.
As a degenerative disease, sadly, there isn’t a cure for dementia. Current medications can ease the symptoms of dementia, which include memory loss, decline in cognitive ability and difficulty communicating. These symptoms manifest themselves in many different ways, but can include; difficulty counting money, confusion when reading maps or instructions, complications when reading clock faces or understanding time and distress when dealing with many other day-to-day tasks.
It is important to prepare and learn the nuances of living a life - or caring for someone - with dementia, so here are a few helpful hints.
Around the house
Home is all too often a familiar sanctuary for those living with dementia, so it should be both a comfortable and safe environment.
Mirrors can be real point of distress for some; what many of us see as our reflection, could look like a complete stranger to someone with dementia. Try to limit the number of mirrors placed around the house, restricting them to essential places like the bathroom.
Decorations can also cause distress for people living with dementia. Hallucinations are a common symptom of dementia and busy patterns can look different to someone with the disease. Keeping everything in the house as familiar as possible and straying away from any drastic redecorating can ease discomfort.
For those living with dementia, everyday tasks can be confusing. Locating the milk and finding a teaspoon to make a cup of tea can be difficult. Labelling the contents of a draw or a cupboard will help minimise confusion, making household tasks and chores far easier.
As many recent high profile campaigns have highlighted, loneliness is a real issue in society, including those living with a dementia related illness.
Due to the nature of dementia, many people often distance themselves from others, as interaction and communication can be tiresome, stressful and difficult to understand. Simply picking up the phone for a chat, or just dropping in for a cup of tea can mean the world of difference between a good and a bad day for someone living with dementia.
If you are spending time with someone that has dementia, wear a smile and maintain eye contact, body language is very important and can help keep them feel calm and comfortable.
Keep an eye out for local clubs or groups that cater to people with dementia. These can be a great way to get out the house and provide a much needed social circle. This excellent search tool will help you find local events catered to those living with dementia-related illnesses.
Music has a very profound effect on dementia; it interacts with the brain in a way that fires up its neurons, which then sends signals down pathways damaged by the effects of dementia.
Creating a playlist of familiar music can spark fond memories for those living with dementia, it’s relaxing and increases positive associations. It isn’t the case for everyone, so a measured and mindful approach is the best.
What does the future hold?
Current dementia treatment limits symptoms rather than preventing the disease itself, but lots of research is currently focused on preventing the disease and trying to reverse the damage it causes.
Canadian researchers have discovered a method of using ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The ultrasound device delivers therapeutic antibodies to the brain, which then attach themselves to tau, the chemical responsible for causing Alzheimer’s. Those therapeutic antibodies then neutralise the tau chemicals, removing the chemical that causes the development of Alzheimer’s. Read more about that study here.
Betabloc, a vaccine currently undergoing clinical trials, attacks amyloid plaques present in the brain to halt the effects of Alzheimer’s. What is so promising about betabloc is that it has also restored mental function in tests.
Whatever the future holds for dementia treatment, we shouldn’t lose sight of providing support and care for those living with the disease in the present.
One of the best ways you can help anyone living with dementia is to just be there to support them. Helping them with tasks they previously found simple, showing a little more patience, or learning to recognise moments when they are not being their usual self.
To show your support for those living with dementia, please become a Dementia Friend. The Alzheimer’s Society initiative raises awareness and improves the support for people with dementia. Simply visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk to register and watch a few short videos. For every person who signs up to become a Dementia Friend, the level of support for dementia grows.
Kare Plus is a leading national multi-service healthcare provider; delivering an outstanding quality of care and support to local communities. Kare Plus provides a range of care services including dementia care within the home, if you are interested in finding out more please visit our services page.
Other Kare Plus blogs about dementia you may be interested in are; ‘Memory Playlists - Exploring the link between music and dementia’ or ‘Molly's Movement - The YouTubers documenting dementia’.