What is Dementia?
As we grow older, we all become more forgetful. But forgetfulness and dementia are not one and the same. Dementia is a disorder of the mental processes caused by disease or injury, and its diagnosis can be a scary thing for an adult living at home to contemplate. Living well with dementia is possible despite its effects on memory, the ability to think clearly, problem-solving, and language. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. But dementia can also begin after a singular or series of strokes, this is called vascular dementia. Dementia can develop as a gradual, almost insignificant problem – like forgetfulness. But this can steadily grow into an issue that affects day-to-day function and living. Mood and behaviour can also change.
“Cherish Care understands that Alzheimer’s Disease does not define the person. They are considerate of Mum’s view of herself, respectful, encouraging and, above all, kind. They understand that some days are good and others not so bright, but they are always calm and dependable. There have been many occasions when we have thanked our lucky stars.”
What are the Common Symptoms?
Every individual is different. Each form of dementia can affect each person in a unique way. Also, the person’s environment and support systems can also have a bearing on how well they cope with dementia. Common symptoms include:-
Day-to-day memory deterioration
Judging distances and dimensions of objects
Being disoriented to place, date, and time
Mood and behavioural changes
How is Dementia Diagnosed?
This diagnosis is usually made by a psychiatrist, a neurologist, or geriatrician. On occasion the diagnosis is made by a GP. There is no singular test for dementia but testing done will include:-taking a comprehensive history, assessing cognitive changes (memory and thinking), a physical assessment, and a brain scan.
Can Dementia be Treated or Cured?
The most progressive and common dementias – like Alzheimer’s - cannot be cured and no treatment stops or slows its progression. But there are medications available that can temporarily slow down the symptoms. Living well with dementia means there are other things we can all do which may possibly prevent dementia. Since your brain is nourished by healthy blood vessels, using the same methods of protecting your heart may be beneficial; not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure stable. This could stop damage to those bloods vessels – and therefore, perhaps the brain. Diet could have a big impact on developing dementia; eating heart-healthy foods may even protect the brain. Keeping fit could prevent some types of dementia, by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. However, more research in dementia is needed to look into these theories. Further research may also improve the successfulness of current treatments and looking towards finding a cure in the future.
Living Well with Dementia
Your GP can offer support, imparting medical advice and prescribing the best treatment options. They can make referrals to other medical professionals, and providing and overseeing continuity of your health care. Locally, Know Dementia are a supportive charity helping families to remain engaged in their communities. People living with dementia and their carers can join in 'moments'. This could be singing in a choir or engaging in some physical activity to regular cafes with other families with dementia where people can connect again. The Alzheimer’s Society also offer programmes to people suffering with dementia and their carers to ensure people with the condition can remain connected with their lives and loved-ones.
Without doubt, having dementia will make life more difficult. Many people believe that once a diagnosis of dementia is made, a person’s future will be very bleak. But with some adjustments, people with dementia can actually continue to live fulfilling lives; without entirely giving up the lifestyle they had before. With the correct knowledge and support, people with dementia can still expect a good quality of life.