About Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society reports that in the UK alone, there are currently more than 850,000 people living with dementia and that by 2040 this figure is expected to rise to 1.6 million. The society suggests that 225,000 people will develop dementia each year, one every three minutes, and they share statistics that 1-in-6 people over the age of 80 have dementia and that 70% of people that live in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a collective name for up to 50 different syndromes. Put simply; dementia is a disease that damages nerve cells within the brain and the connections between those cells. As a direct result, brain function is compromised. The brain function decline can be slow in some, with minimal impact on daily living, while in others, it can happen quickly. Dementia comes in many forms; the most common being Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, and Lewy Body Dementia.

Is dementia passed down from families?

Research suggests that it is noticeably more common in some families than others but emphasises that there is currently no evidence to suggest that dementia is hereditary.

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Characteristics of dementia

The spectrum of characteristics in a person with dementia can be broad. A person with dementia often presents with changes in behaviour, mood, and deterioration of memory.

Changes in behaviour can include:

  • Aggressive, out-of-character outbursts or being suspicious of every-day things
  • Feeling unsettled, tapping or constantly fiddling, pacing during the day, and struggling to stay in bed at night.
  • Hiding or collecting objects
  • Difficulty in recognising appropriate from inappropriate behaviour. Possibly swearing, making comments, or failing to operate with an expected level of dignity or public decency.

Changes in mood can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Sadness/depression
  • Fear/anxiety
  • Child-like elation

Signs of memory deterioration include:

  • Challenges in finding the right words, the understanding language used, or forgetting what you have been told, or learnt.
  • Difficulty in recognising some people, objects, sounds or smells.
  • Feeling challenged with dressing and undressing.
  • Difficulty in solving problems and making plans.

 

Forms of dementia

Alzheimer’s

Approximately 60 to 70% of newly diagnosed cases of dementia are classified as Alzheimer’s disease.

Characteristics:

  • It begins slowly, and the decline is gradual.
  • Forgetfulness is often one of the first noticeable signs.
  • As the disease progresses, challenges with language, perception, and action may become noticeable.
  • Often the person with dementia does not notice these changes.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when the blood vessels in the brain no longer function as well as they should, resulting in reduced oxygen-rich blood to the brain tissue. Raise pressure in the blood vessels can sometimes cause bleeding on the brain.

Characteristics:

  • Early signs are much more apparent, with a more noticeable shift from the person’s behavior that you are used to.
  • The decline is sporadic, not gradual when compared to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Future challenges for the affected person can be difficult to predict.
  • A person with dementia will experience good and bad days.
  • Changes in the person effected are often noticeable by others.

Frontotemporal Dementia:

Damage to the frontal lobe, known as the anterior parts of the brain, can result in frontotemporal dementia. The frontal lobes are responsible for regulating our behavior.

Characteristics:

  • Behavior changes
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor judgement
  • Speech impairment

Lewy Body Dementia

Abnormal nerve cells in the cerebral cortex are responsible for this type of dementia. This form can be challenging to recognise, mainly because symptoms can vary each day and its similarities to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Characteristics:

  • Delusions and hallucinations.
  • Challenges with concentration and focus.
  • Parkinson’s-like symptoms that can include slow movement, a stooped posture, rigidity, trembling, and unsteadiness.
  • Varying levels of confusion.

The stages of dementia

Dementia has four main phases and is typically a gradual process over many years. The way that the disease progresses will not be the same for each person with dementia, with its course determined by the dementia type, and the individual’s life experience, and character.

Early-stage dementia — Early-stage dementia is often described as a ‘fuzzy feeling’ that can be accompanied by small changes in behavior or character. Individuals can find it hard to relax, feeling tense, or insecure. Where the individual has gaps in memory, it is not uncommon to fill these gaps with invented stories. There can be signs of rebellion and doubt, with the person with dementia stating that “there is nothing wrong with me” and asking, “doesn’t everyone sometimes forget something”?

Early dementia phase — During this phase, denial of the disease becomes difficult, often causing emotional outbursts and confusion. The recalling of information becomes more laborious, and signs of living in the past may be more noticeable. It can be difficult for the individual to settle, feeling restless, and with disrupted sleep patterns and increased changes in character.

Mid-stage dementia — At this stage, individuals will find it increasingly difficult to remain in contact with the outside world. There will be a noticeable uplift in physical complaints, and individuals will find it even more difficult to live at home. At this point, moving to a care home for people with dementia becomes inevitable.

Late-phase dementia — People in late-phase dementia may become more insular, shutting themselves off from the outside world. As walking independently becomes difficult, Individuals will become more dependent on their families, care workers and volunteers. At this stage, the senses are becoming increasingly important, and so enjoying music, the smell of home-cooked food, observing colour in the garden, or the warm touch of a hand from a loved one can make a huge difference in how a person with dementia is feeling.

Help and Support

Dealing with late-phase dementia can be exceptionally hard for both the person with dementia and their loved ones. It is common to feel a huge sense of loss and sadness.

At Leaf Care, we want you to know that you are not alone. We are here to offer you help and support at every phase of dementia, providing services and support in and out of the person’s home. You can also read our blog for the latest updates and guidance on how to best support a person with dementia with the daily challenges they can face.

If you or a loved one is living with a form of dementia, it is imperative that you receive the best information and support at every stage from a team that understands your circumstances and challenges. At Leaf Care, you can rest easy knowing that we are with you every step of the way, supporting your need for care and understanding at each stage of dementia. Additionally, local councils can guide you while offering support services, and spending time at Alzheimer’s Cafes can feel comforting. Further information can be found at Alzheimer’s UK.

Simplifying day-to-day life with helpful aids

There are many devices available that can help with the simplification of everyday living, allowing people with dementia to live independently at home for as long as possible, while deemed safe.

Just some of the available aids include adapted telephones, simplified remote controls, sensors, GPS systems and day-rhythm clocks.

What services do Leaf Care offer?

Respite care — All carers need some time to themselves to rest and recuperate. In recognition of this, Leaf Dementia Villages offer respite care.

Independent Living — If living at home has become increasingly difficult for the person with dementia, Leaf Dementia Villages offers safe, independent living in groups. A new home at Leaf Dementia Villages will support people to live life the way that they are used to, encouraging family and friends to still play an essential role in their life.

Our care staff will work closely with family and volunteers, placing emphasis on the well-being of our residents, ensuring that they live life in a way that is both pleasant and dignified.

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