The effects of dementia can affect many people in their lifetime; 1 in 14 people aged over 65 years are likely to develop a form of dementia. However, it doesn’t just affect older people as more than 42,000 people under the age of 65 have also been diagnosed. The number of people living with dementia in the UK is set to rise to over 1 million in 2021.
This month, we will be discussing the impact of dementia, the signs to look out for and how our care team can support people living with the various stages to feel comfortable at home.
What is dementia?
Dementia describes the range of progressive conditions that affect the brain. This could include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, and can also affect mood and behaviour patterns. There are over 200 varieties of dementia, with the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies.
The main symptoms of dementia include memory problems and new information being lost, cognitive abilities to process information or make decisions, and communication.
What causes dementia?
The brain is made up of neurons or nerve cells which send messages to each other to share information. Dementia damages these nerve cells, meaning messages can’t be sent efficiently to and from the brain, preventing the body from functioning normally.
The various types of dementia can have different causes: Alzheimer’s disease is a physical condition and is caused by changes in the brain structure due to a build-up of proteins which affect the brain cells’ ability to transmit information. Vascular dementia can be the result of a stroke, which has caused problems with the supply of blood going to the brain cells. Dementia with Lewy bodies is a progressive condition; Lewy bodies are small deposits of protein that appear in the brain’s nerve cells and have been linked to low levels the chemicals that transmit information to cells.
How is dementia diagnosed and treated?
If you or a loved one is starting to worry about problems with memory, it’s important to book an appointment with your GP. They will run an assessment to rule out other conditions that have similar signs and symptoms, such as infections or depression. Short-term cognitive ability and concentration will be tested, with the GP asking questions such as what day it is, name common items or remembering something. Blood tests, urine samples and (if necessary) an x-ray of the chest be taken to also rule out any other conditions.
Following these tests, a GP may refer you or a loved one for further assessment with a specialist. These assessments will investigate the medical history of the family and conduct further mental ability tests.
Being diagnosed with a form of dementia can be hard to take in; allow yourself or your loved one time to adjust to the condition as you/they may feel a wave of different emotions.
There is no cure for dementia, but a range of treatments are available to ease symptoms and help people to feel more comfortable. Counselling and talking therapies can help some understand their diagnosis or share their feelings, whilst cognitive rehabilitation can help to keep the mind activity. Medication can be prescribed to those who have mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease which can temporarily help with memory, motivation, concentration and daily living.
Many charities that offer help to anyone affected by dementia; Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK all provide further information about the impact of dementia to help you and your loved ones have a deeper understanding.
Heritage Healthcare provides unique support tailored to each individual to help them feel comfortable at home for longer. Our highly-trained care team are on hand to support in any way they can, whether it’s with personal care, household help, companionship or respite.