Dementia is an umbrella term describing a number of diseases and conditions of the brain. The most well known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease
and that accounts for 50-80% of all dementia cases.
there is no known cure for dementia
there are drugs and therapies that can slow its progress
there is no way to absolutely avoid it.
But there are some things you and your family can do to help prevent or detect it early.
The earlier someone with dementia can be diagnosed the better. Fortunately, there are a number of warning signs that can help early detection. Unfortunately, the warning signs are often shrugged off as ‘just a part of old age.' The early warning signs include:
- Challenges in planning
- Confusion with time or place
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Challenges in solving problems
- Losing the ability to retrace steps
- Changes in mood and personality
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- New problems with words in writing
- Trouble understanding visual images
- New problems with words when speaking
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Trouble understanding spatial relationships
- Difficulty in finishing tasks at home, work or leisure.
An online test has been devised to help people distinguish between whether they are potentially displaying warning signs of dementia or are merely being a little forgetful.
Whilst nothing can guarantee that you or a loved one will not develop dementia, there are a number of risk factors that can be avoided and the main risk factors are;
There are many forms of dementia and the disease impacts people differently. Some forms are very aggressive so the person’s brain functions deteriorate very quickly, whilst others may have a very slow and gradual decline in brain functioning over many years.
Some people with dementia have a relatively passive decline, whilst others may experience very distressing emotions, with severe mood swings, frustration, anger, violence, confusion, suspicion, sleeplessness, hiding, wandering, shouting or irrational and dangerous behaviour such as leaving the front door open or the cooker switched on.
For the family and friends of someone with dementia, it is a very difficult path to travel, because they are watching the person who they love slowly slip away from them day by day.
Often it is the spouse who takes on the role of carer and for them it can be particularly heart-breaking as they have to deal with losing their partner and then living with someone who regards them as a stranger, in what is usually very difficult circumstances and often with very little break or respite.
At some point, the spouse then has to decide that their loved one can no longer live at home and that they need to be moved into a special care facility. Again, this is a heartbreaking decision and is profoundly distressing for everyone involved.
The first person you should contact if you are concerned about your loved one and dementia is their GP.
Their GP will be able to perform some basic tests to see if your loved one is potentially in the early stages of the condition. If so, then further tests will be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
If a diagnosis is confirmed or if you desire more information about dementia in any case, the Alzheimer’s Society is a fantastic source of information and help. It has a huge resource library of information and up-to-date news and data on what is happening with dementia research and developments all around the world.
Medication can sometimes help slow the progress of dementia and help reduce some of the distressing side-effects.
There are also therapies and programmes that have been developed to help improve the quality of life enjoyed by people with dementia. For example, reminiscence therapy taps into the long term memory, as it is usually the short term and then medium term memory that is gradually lost by people with dementia.
There are also products and services such as Telecare, that can help keep people with dementia safe and living independently in their homes for longer. Telecare products are things like wrist or pendant alarms, door opening sensors, medication alarms, cooker disabling sensors and GPS locators. Also referred to as assisted-technology products, they are essentially anything that is technology-based that helps keep the person with dementia safe and healthy.