Dementia has recently overtaken cancer as the most feared illness for the UK’s 55 and over age group and for many years it has been the great unspoken, much like cancer once was.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders. Essentially, it is a collection of symptoms that can cause long term and an often-gradual decrease in the ability to think, remember and carry out simple everyday tasks.
Dementia arises when the brain is damaged (through loss or impairment of brain nerve cells), which can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other diseases. Dementia consists of a variety of symptoms, including:
Dementia can further deteriorate over a period of time; the speed of this progression can vary depending on the individual.
Learn more about Trinity Homecare’s specialist dementia care.
Even a few decades ago, only a few medical specialists had heard of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, (its most common form), but as our understanding of the brain has grown alongside vast developments in neuroscience and brain imaging, science has been able to identify and differentiate many different types of dementia.
There are many types of dementia and different diseases that may cause dementia but the three main types include the following:
Many cases of vascular dementia start with early warning signs, including slight:
See your GP if you notice these signs because if it’s spotted at an early stage, lifestyle changes and treatment may be able to stop the vascular dementia getting worse, or at least slow its progression.
People with Lewy body dementia not only experience problems with memory and judgement, like those with Alzheimer’s disease, but may also have difficulties concentrating and have trouble with visual perception.
They may also experience:
Dementia is caused by gradual damage or changes within the brain. It is the loss or impairment of brain nerve cells. According to scientific research these changes usually happen because of a build-up of what is known as abnormal proteins in the brain, which are different in each type of dementia.
Dementia can also be caused by a stroke or other diseases, like Parkinson’s, or Huntington’s disease, which can also cause brain cells to degenerate.
Interestingly, dementia is more common in the Western world where people live longer and a recent study from the Netherlands showed that older people who report feeling lonely are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information on the causes of dementia, have a read of NHS Choices.
There are a range of dementia tests and diagnostic procedures used to diagnose dementia. These include mental ability tests to evaluate short and long term memory, concentration and attention span, amongst other assessments. One of the most common mental tests is known as the mini mental state examination (MMSE). There are also blood tests and finally brain scans too.
To find out more, take a look at NHS Choices.
Senile dementia is an outdated term that was once used when it was thought that extreme memory loss and confusion was a normal part of aging, rather than the result of a specific disease like Alzheimer’s or Vascular dementia.
There’s no real cure for the different forms of dementia but there are some medications available that may help relieve some of the symptoms and, in some people, slow down the progression of the condition.
See also: How to help someone with dementia.
Find out more on NHS Choices.
Memory loss is the symptom most associated with dementia, and so it can be worrying if someone you love starts to forget certain things. However, it’s common in old age and is not the only key symptom of dementia.
There are many types of dementia, the most common type being progressive dementia, also known as Alzheimer’s disease. This disease and its symptoms become worse over time, which is heart-breaking for everyone involved. Despite this, it’s important to know what your loved one will go through and what sort of care they need at each stage.
Here are the five stages of progressive dementia, part of the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) used by professionals to measure the progression of the disease.
At this stage, the person living with dementia will show no signs of impairment, and is entirely able to look after themselves. Their memory is pretty good and their judgement remains normal. They shouldn’t need any help yet, but it’s important to keep an eye on them in case you notice any changes.
This is when your loved one will start to struggle slightly with their memory, and you may notice some inconsistencies. They may also have issues solving challenging problems and have trouble with timing. Work and social situations may start to become awkward for them, as they begin to develop memory slips. They are, however, perfectly capable of managing their own personal care.
Although the changes to your friend or relative remain mild at this point, you will start to notice that their short-term memory is becoming worse. Disorientation is more common and they may have trouble with navigation, especially when outside the home.
You’ll need to keep checking up on them, as they may forget to wash and do important household chores. Don’t forget that emotional support is just as important as physically being there for them.
Sadly at this stage your loved one will need help with the majority of tasks. You may have to wash them, accompany them when they go outside the house and even aid them with chores. It is much easier for them to become lost, as they are more disorientated than they were.
Their short-term memory is also severely impacted , so you’ll find that they struggle to retain new information, such as someone they’ve just met.
This is the most severe stage of dementia – there is no question that the person you love will need help from a full-time care worker. They cannot function without assistance and their memory loss is extreme – they may even struggle to remember who you are. Even if they have someone with them, it is almost impossible for them to go outside the house to attend social events and take part in other activities.
We understand how difficult it is to see your loved one, who used to be completely independent, transform into someone that needs round the clock care. One of the biggest worries for many is that their friend or relative will need to sell their home and move into a care home, but this is not the only option.
There are many places throughout the country that specialise in support for dementia and at Trinity we’re proud to say we’re supporters of the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities programme, which focuses on improving inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia.
At Trinity Homecare, we’re passionate about ensuring that all our clients with dementia live well and we’re aiming to train all of our carers to become Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Champions, which means they are specially trained in caring for people with the condition.
There are many dementia support groups throughout the country, and the Alzheimer’s Society can help you find your local group.
If you’re interested in local support groups throughout Surrey, check out our blog for up to date information.
*Source: Research from www.stayinmyhome.co.uk*
** Source: Research paper: Tjalling Jan Holwerda, Dorly J H Deeg, Aartjan T F Beekman, et al: Research paper: Feelings of loneliness, but not social isolation, predict dementia onset: results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL). Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.