24 Aug 2015
As Anchor’s National Dementia Services Manager I work across all our care homes ensuring we provide exceptional dementia care to our customers.
I’m passionate about supporting people to live well with dementia and believe that raising awareness of what dementia is and how it may develop can help ensure people get the right support early on.
I work closely both with people living with dementia and their support networks; family, friends and carers, and there are a number of key questions I am asked repeatedly, so in this blog I aim to answer a couple of dementia FAQs.
What do you mean by the term “dementia”? What is dementia and how does it impact on people?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that cause a disturbance in the brain’s functioning. There are many different types of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society (2007) estimates that there are 100 different types.
Every person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. The different types of dementia can affect people differently. The most common signs and symptoms of dementia can include:
- Day-to-day memory loss – difficulty recalling events that happened recently
- Language – difficulties following a conversation or understanding others
- Visuospatial skills – problems judging distances (e.g. on stairs) and seeing objects in three dimensions
- Orientation – losing track of the day or date, or becoming confused in familiar surroundings
- Problems with thinking and reasoning
- Difficulties with concentrating, planning and everyday tasks
It’s important to note that memory loss is not enough to diagnose dementia. Forgetting things can be a product of the busy lives that we lead. Only when this reaches a stage where it is stopping everyday functions can it be a symptom for dementia.
How common is dementia? Will I get dementia?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in UK and this is predicted to rise to two million by 2051 (Alzheimer’s Society 2012).
These are huge numbers and as our population continues to grow older, more and more of us are likely to know someone living with dementia.
We’ve seen some good developments in research around preventing dementia, many of which are covered in this factsheet produced by the Alzheimer’s Society. It explains very well what is known about the factors that affect our risk of developing different types of dementia and gives some advice on the steps people can take to reduce their risk.
What we need to ensure is that we’re supporting people who are living with dementia. It’s important to know that if you are diagnosed with dementia that you are not alone, and there is some brilliant care and support available.
Why are surroundings important when supporting people with dementia?
People with dementia can get confused in a familiar environment, so it’s a good idea to make everything easily recognisable.
The most important thing that we highlight at Anchor is person-centred care. Every person is unique and the surroundings that they find comforting will depend on their own personal life story.
Due to the symptoms of dementia such as memory loss and difficulties with vision, people can experience anxiety, feeling worried or confused so it is important to create surroundings that are not sterile, but homely so that people feel relaxed and at ease.
Creating areas for meaningful activity, such as interactive sections of hallways can spark spontaneous conversation and places for people to join together. This can help reduce isolation and boredom, which can be critical when supporting people living with dementia.
Providing a stimulating environment as well as making it feel homely can maximise independence and quality of life.
Where can I find more information about dementia and get support?
If you think you or a loved one may be developing dementia your GP should be your first port of call. Your GP will be able to run through some simple checks to assess the symptoms being described and offer you information and answer your questions face to face.
Anchor has also developed a guide to help families of people living with dementia which you can download for free here. This discusses the early signs of dementia as well as how to get a diagnosis and could be helpful.
You could also become a Dementia Friend by visiting www.dementiafriends.org.uk. The Prime Minister has set a challenge that by 2020 there will be over 3 million registered dementia friends in England, with England leading the way in turning Dementia Friends into a global movement.
There are lots of charities set up to provide information and support for people living with dementia as well as their carers, useful websites include:
The most important thing is to get the support you need, don’t tackle this alone. It can be helpful getting a timely diagnosis of dementia and support from the early stages can really help to continue to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Joanne Laverty is Anchor’s National Dementia Services Manager.