Understanding dementia

Caring for someone with dementia

Dementia Action Week is 17-23 May 2021 and it’s important to discuss how diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s can affect individuals and answer those important questions that revolve around how to care and understand someone with a degenerative brain disorder.

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 ten 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. If 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. This includes 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 their 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 Day, 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.

For more health news, advice and updates, take a look at our main blog page.

Don’t wait to get on top of your health

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. They can prescribe medication to help by making day-to-day living a little easier. They might also recommend activities to help cope better with symptoms.

To book a private GP appointment, complete our online enquiry form or contact our Private Patient Team on 01580 363158.

Published on 18 May 2021