By Nick Jarrett
In this period of Covid19 lockdown we need to be more aware than ever of the vulnerable people in our community and especially those with dementia. Support from the community can make the lives of those with dementia and their carers better. Do what you can and listen out for opportunities to shop for, listen to and support online etc.
What is Dementia?
There are about 800,000 people with dementia in the UK. It is not a single disease but rather a name given to a group of symptoms from certain diseases which affect the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. The diagnosis of dementia can be very upsetting. However, many people with dementia can have many years living full lives with little or no assistance.
Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, communication problems and changes in mood. Problems with short-term memory are often the first signs of dementia. Communication problems are linked to memory loss. Communication problems often arise when a person is unable to recall a particular word or phrase in conversation.
Dementia symptoms can have a profound effect on a person's life, especially changes in mood. This can give rise to mixed emotions (sadness, anxiety, anger).
Most of us have some experience of a relative or friend who has dementia. For myself my first experience of this was when my mother was diagnosed around the age of 70 years. That was 20 years ago and my experience was a mixed one. My mother was living in a self-contained flat but got to the stage where she could no longer cope. By that stage she was assessed by social services as needing residential care. We found her a home on the Sussex coast near where I was living and she was well cared for there. I got to spend some precious times with her. Increasingly as her short-term memory declined conversations were about the past and I found old photographs provoked conversations which I still treasure. This approach is now commonly known as 'reminiscence work' and involves talking about things and events from the person's past. It usually involves props such as photos, favourite possessions or music. Extending this to life story work involves a compilation of photos, notes and keepsakes from childhood to the present day. It can be either a physical book or a digital version.
Treatments and therapy
Increasingly there are better treatments for dementia and certainly most people diagnosed now are offered medication which can delay the progress and symptoms of the disease. Many families are caring for a loved one at home and especially during this period of lockdown this can be difficult. The Dementia Awareness week (or action week) aims to improve public knowledge of the condition and also raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society. Because of the difficulties of fundraising the awareness/action week has been put off until later in the year. However this doesn't stop us from achieving other aims and especially awareness of the needs of families caring for loved ones.
The Alzheimer's Society https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/
Age UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk/
Bucks Mind: www.bucksmind.org.uk
Carers Bucks which does a great deal for those caring for relatives and friends suffering from dementia: www.carersbucks.org
For signposting to services or express an opinion about local dementia services: Healthwatch Bucks www.healthwatchbucks.co.uk
Dementia Friends https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/
Admiral Nurses https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/admiral-nursing/
There is a scheme for retailers to make shopping easier for dementia sufferers here