Dementia is commonly misunderstood and sadly sometimes remains stigmatised. One person in 20 aged over 65, and one in four over 85, have dementia. An estimated 800,000 people are affected in the UK and 35 million worldwide. With our ageing population, dementia is expected to double by the middle of the century.
Dementia is an umbrella term for lots of diseases and conditions. These dementia conditions include; Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies. These are the 3 most prevalent or commonly occurring dementias in the UK. Although these conditions share similar characteristics and symptoms, as set out below, the course of the dementia may vary.
- Forgetting recent things they did
- Being less interested in activities or taking less care of themselves
- Being reluctant to try new things
- Being less able to make decisions or plans
- Becoming slower to understand ideas
- Showing a tendency to accuse others of ‘hiding’ or ‘stealing’ items
- Becoming increasingly self-centred
- Losing the ability to concentrate
- Becoming restless and unsettled
- Appear to have a change of personality
- Suffer mood changes, becoming withdrawn, sad, anxious or sometimes angry
- Repeat words, phrases or actions
- Forgetting recent events and conversations
- Lose reading and writing skills
- Getting lost within a familiar environment
- Neglect hygiene or eating
- See or hear things that are not there
There are over 100 types of dementia. Below you will find some of the more common
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. This disease causes loss of nerve cells in the brain and over time all functions and activities, may become impaired as the brain shrinks.
Alzheimer’s particularly impacts on awareness of time and place. People may become disorientated and feel the need to wander from home. The ability of those with Alzheimer’s disease gradually deteriorate slowly and becomes worse as times passes.
Korsakoff’s syndrome is a brain disorder usually associated with heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time. Although Korsakoff’s syndrome is not strictly speaking a dementia, people with the condition experience loss of short-term memory.
By contrast, Vascular dementia or Multi infarct dementia is caused by strokes or infarcts. The interruption of the blood supply to specific parts of the brain can result in permanent brain damage.
Typically an older person will have a Transient Isthaemic Attack (TIA) or a mini stroke, frequently at night. They may recover a little over the following days or weeks but then this TIA may occur again. Causing further deterioration. Some 20% of people with dementia are affected by both Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies affects fewer people than Alzheimer’s disease or Vascular dementia. Lewy bodies are tiny protein deposits found in brain cells that block the action of chemical messengers, crucial for normal brain function.
The ability and behaviour of people with this type of dementia can show a marked difference, sometimes from hour to hour, and visual hallucinations are common. Those affected may have difficulties with balance, walk stiffly and slowly which makes them more prone to a fall. As with people with Parkinson’s, they may often have a tremor. These two diseases overlap, and up to a third of people with Parkinson’s will develop dementia.
Families and making memories
Before moving in
The process of making the decision to move into a care home is inevitably a difficult and emotional one for the family. Unfortunately sometimes care homes are perceived as the ‘last resort’. At Avante Care & Support we do not see our homes in this light. Even when families feel that a care home is a positive choice for their loved one, they often experience feelings of guilt whilst making this difficult decision. We understand that letting go and learning to trust our care staff can be difficult and Avante Care & Support are always here to help.
Sometimes the needs of older people with dementia require them to move to a home urgently. However many more are admitted in a carefully planned manor. This gives everyone involved the opportunity to get to know each other. The more information our staff have about a new resident, the more able they are to help them settle in. We develop a plan of care that fully meets their needs, interests and preferences and we encourage families to play a key role in all aspects of this planning.
Helping with the move
It’s better for everyone if families can help their relative move in, settle and be there to offer reassurance. This transition marks endings but at Avante Care & Support we emphasise the positive fact of this new beginning.
- Ensuring that staff have accurate and up to date information about their relative’s life, including birth place, childhood, employment, family, major events in life, favourite foods, clothes, hobbies, interests and even television programmes.
- Bringing in lots of photos either in frames or collages of family, friends, pets, and places which will help staff engage and get to know what is important to your family member.
- Supporting their relative or friend in choosing small items of furniture, ornaments, and pictures of which they are fond and may hold memories, and helping them to decorate and organise their bedroom to make it as familiar as possible for them.
Getting ready for visiting
Our priority is to help your relative or friend settle in once they have been admitted to a care home. However we are also there to give you support. We understand that whilst some families visit often and are in constant contact, it is not always possible to make frequent visits, as many families live a distance away.
It might help to understand visiting in its most basic sense, may simply become your ‘being present’ and this often provides considerable comfort.