Understanding dementia

Caring for someone with dementia

Organised by Alzheimer’s Society UK, Dementia Action Week will take place between 16-22 May in 2022. The purpose of this week is to discuss how diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s can affect individuals and encourage people to ‘act on dementia’.

The week also seeks to raise awareness around diagnosis and answer those important questions that revolve around how to care for and understand someone with a degenerative brain disorder. Diagnosis is the 2022 theme of Dementia Action Week because Alzheimer’s Society recorded dementia diagnosis rates falling to a five-year low.

Nearly one million people with dementia and their families are struggling to get the support and care that they need and deserve according to Alzheimer’s Society (2021). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around six in every 10 people with dementia in the UK according to Alzheimer’s Research UK (2021).

Our guide can help you to learn more about dementia and how you can help those living with the condition.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe several different degenerative disorders that trigger a gradual loss of brain function - thinking, remembering, and reasoning.

What are the symptoms and who is most likely to show these?

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, as are those closest to them f current trends continue and no action is taken, the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to 1,000,000 by 2025 and 1,590,000 by 2040 according to Alzheimer’s Society (2021).

For most people, symptoms can first appear in their mid-60s. Short term memory loss is well-known; however, dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel, and behave. Many people remain undiagnosed because they are in denial and assume that memory loss is just part of getting old which is a big misconception.

Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems planning and thinking things through
  • Struggling with daily tasks like following a recipe or using a bank card
  • Trouble finding the right word or keeping up with communication
  • An inability judging distances that goes beyond eyesight issues
  • Mood changes and a lack of control over emotions

What treatments and research are available?

Treatment such as Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine is available alongside research and development into finding a cure.

How can I help someone with dementia?

Friends and relatives often find it difficult to visit someone with dementia as conversation is challenging. Take along a game or activity, photos, or music to listen to so the focus isn’t on talking.

The temptation might be to correct absentmindedness or highlight repetition but, particularly when the disease has progressed, that can cause confusion and anxiety, so it’s usually kinder not to draw attention to this.

  • Pictures on doors at home can help people with dementia find their way, for example the toilet, bed, and TV in the front room
  • Don’t serve up boiling hot tea or coffee to someone with dementia as they could spill it and scald themselves. Instead add cold water or plenty of milk
  • Avoid lots of questions. Instead opt for a fait accompli, such as ‘I was making a drink and made you one too’
  • Link in with a local group for help and support and connect with people who are experiencing what you are
  • We have some other useful tips for people with Alzheimer’s, such as using gardening to ease the effects of dementia. Read our article on the benefits of gardening

Awareness is growing, thanks to international days such as World Alzheimer's Month, but the general public might still not understand certain behaviours or outbursts. If you need to, don’t be afraid to calmly explain that your friend or family member is living with dementia.

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself; there’s no instruction manual for this.

Our private GP service and tests and scans will help you get a diagnosis

Dementia isn’t part of the natural ageing process. If you’re worried about your memory, or about someone else, the first thing to do is make an appointment with your GP.

Our male and female GPs can discuss any concerns you have about your health. You’ll have 25 minutes with your GP, who will take the time to thoroughly discuss your health concerns. They’ll also arrange any tests, scans or follow-up appointments and discuss their costs with you.

To book a private GP appointment or to book a test, scan or examination complete our online enquiry form or contact our Private Patient Team on 01580 363 158.

Published on 16 May 2022