Guides to care

The Facts About Dementia and Dementia Care

A diagnosis of dementia can be frightening for the person who receives the diagnosis, and for their families and friends. Suddenly it may seem like the sky is falling in and things are never going to be the same again. Whilst it is true that dementia can mean there need to be some changes for those concerned, there is a lot that can be done to improve the lives of those living with it. Arming yourself with knowledge can help you to cope if your loved one gets the unwanted news and will give you the tools to help your loved one.

The Facts About Dementia and Dementia Care The Mayfield Care Home

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not actually a single disease; it is an umbrella term covering a number of disctint conditions, each with slightly differing symptoms. Because everyone is different and unique, each person will experience the symptoms differently. The symptoms are the result of changes in the brain, and typically include memory loss, which is often the first thing you’ll notice.

Types of Dementia

The main types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease; Vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies, and all will produce a similar decline in cognitive abilities, thinking skills, communication skills, understanding and concentration. There is often an accompanying decline in physical and motor skills.

Dementia is a disease which can strike at any age but typically affects older people and is, unfortunately, progressive, which means it gets worse over time.

Symptoms of Dementia

The most common symptoms are:

  • A breakdown in language and communication skills means that a loved one may struggle to find the right word or to follow a conversation. They may use different words or opt-out of a conversation altogether.
  • Memory loss often starts innocuously and then gets progressively worse until the person typically can’t remember what they did or said five minutes ago. They may misplace items or fail to recognise someone they’ve known for years. However, in contrast, those living with dementia can often clearly remember events from their childhood.
  • Someone with dementia may experience mood changes or become agitated or aggressive when they were previously mild- mannered. Or they could become upset, anxious and fearful of doing something or going somewhere they would previously take in their stride.
  • Judgment can become impaired and a loved one may start dressing or behaving inappropriately.

Careful and Sensitive Handling is Needed

It is upsetting and difficult for anyone to see a loved one who has always been strong and capable suddenly becoming vulnerable, and even childlike in some cases. It is important to remember that they have changed from the person they were and that where there is challenging behaviour, it is often driven by fear or frustration.

Try to keep their daily life to a routine because as dementia progresses it can be upsetting to someone living with dementia to have to deal with changes. Encourage them to stay as fit and active as possible and to continue with their hobbies and interests where feasible. Staying physically and mentally active can help to slow the progression of dementia. Dementia can also cause weight loss so make sure they eat nutritious food at regular times and that they stay hydrated throughout the day.

Caring for a person with dementia can be difficult, frustrating and can make you angry or upset sometimes. When negative emotions threaten to overwhelm you, it could be the time to consider whether professional care such as a specialist residential care home may be the best option for your loved one. Specialist carers are trained to make sure those living with dementia are calm, comfortable, and as mentally stimulated as they should be to ensure optimal physical and mental health.

What if They Refuse to Accept a Diagnosis?

Nobody wants to hear that they have dementia and a refusal to accept a diagnosis is often a sign that someone is worried and perhaps frightened by it. Stay positive and seek out as much outside help as you can in the form of dementia cafés, support groups and your local health care professionals.

Above all, never feel that you are on your own. Keep talking and supporting your loved one as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask for professional help whenever you need it.

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