Caring for someone with dementia
The term dementia is used to describe a number of conditions associated with memory loss. There are several diagnoses included in this term, but the three most common are:-
- Alzheimer’s Disease – approximately half of all people diagnosed are in this category. This is when parts of the brain slowly die off, so deterioration is a gradual process
- Vascular Dementia – this is the second most common form of dementia. This is when the brain is damaged by a series of mini-strokes Deterioration is therefore in small steps, but does have similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Lewy-Body Disease – this is not a well known diagnosis but it is estimated that as many as 20% of sufferers experience this form of dementia. This is when bodies in the brain damage nerve cells, resulting in symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Different conditions respond to treatments and medication in different ways. Diagnosis is therefore very important.
What are some of the signs a carer might notice?
Symptoms vary from one individual to another, but some of the following would start to become apparent:
- Problems remembering things that happened a short while/ minutes ago but can remember things that happened years ago.
- Repeating conversations, asking the same questions over and over again.
- Cannot find the right words – nouns and people’s names are one of the first things forgotten.
- Loss of a second language – for people from Ethnic Minority Communities with English as a second language this causes greater isolation.
- Loss of skills e.g. self care, putting clothes on in the wrong order, concentration to read and write, eating, shopping, driving, etc. As everything we do we have been taught, these skills could all gradually be lost.
- Inability to judge situations e.g. wandering, become inhibited, change in sexual behaviour, become more possessive, become scared, become aggressive, become suspicious, have obsessive thoughts.
- Loss of co-ordination of thought and movement, change in posture and mood.
How can a carer start to get some help?
- Many people are aware that their memory is failing them and that they are losing some of the skills which they have taken for granted. This can be an extremely scary time for them and their carer. It is relatively common that in the early stages they adopt coping skills to hide the symptoms, which in turn can make it difficult to encourage them to seek help and for the family doctor to gain a true picture to make an assessment of the situation.
- To determine a diagnosis a visit to the family doctor is the first course of action.
- The family doctor can then refer to a specialist or you can ask to be referred.
- Currently there is no medical test to determine a diagnosis of dementia and as there could be a number of conditions causing the behaviour a process of elimination will take place before a diagnosis is made.
- To reach this diagnosis doctors spend time talking to the patient, main carer, relative or close friend. This is often carried out at home in familiar surroundings.
What does this mean for the carer?
Caring for someone with a form of dementia can be a very demanding and testing time, leading to a change in lifestyle:
- Friends and relatives may stop visiting as unable to understand or cope with the situation.
- The person you care for cannot remember who you are.
- Carers feel guilty that they are not always doing enough for the person they are caring for.
- Carers become isolated and lonely and can lose confidence to go out.
- Carers can lose the art of conversation
- Carers feel guilty when they do manage to go out, even for a short period of time.
- Carers worry what they will find when they go home.
- Carers become tired through lack of sleep if the cared for wanders or has an unpredictable sleep pattern.
It is important to remember that dementia is nothing to be ashamed of and that it is no- one’s fault, particularly if illnesses such as this are not usually discussed outside the family. If you are the main carer it is important to get support for yourself and to remember you are an individual with needs of your own.
How can we help you, the carer?
- Visits to you in your home by one of our Dementia Advisors
- You can come in to see one of our Dementia Advisors
- Regular telephone contact from one of our workers or volunteers
- Help you to take a break
Havering Carers Hub provides the following services to those caring for someone with Dementia
Emotional Support individually or in a group
Peer Support Groups
Regular Carers' Forum
Regular Telephone Support
Information relating to Carers' Assessments
Information relating to Hospital Discharge
Access to welfare benefits advice
Other Dementia Service available in the community
Head Office address is Tapestry, 1st Floor Scottish Mutual House, 27-29 North Street, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 1RS
The Dementia Advisory Team (commissioned by Clinical Commissioning Group) is based at this office. Main telephone line is 01708 796600.
Dementia Advisory Service
Tapestry's Dementia Advisory Service is a long established dedicated service offering ongoing support to people living with dementia and their carers in the borough of Havering. Our dementia advisors are specially trained and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help those living with dementia from diagnosis and beyond.
We offer information, upport and advice including:
A dedicated Dementia Advisor who will visit you at home and continue to help and guide you throughout your journey with dementia. Providing both emotional and practical support
A dedicated telephone information support and advice line
Help with applying for benefits, council tax discounts and other support available within the local authority
Carer support with regards to coping strategies and detailed information on the progression of dementia
Havering Dementia Carers Support Group
Music for the Mind