World Alzheimer’s Day 2020

Caring for someone with dementia

Dementia is currently the leading cause of death for both men and women in the UK, with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias now accounting for more than 12% of all deaths. Yet just half (51%) of the public recognise that dementia can cause death according to Alzheimer’s Research UK. We look at some of the most commonly-asked questions around understanding and caring for someone with dementia.

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.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for around 62% of all diagnosed cases.

What treatments and research are available?

Treatment such as Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine is available alongside research and development into finding a cure continue. An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, as are those closest to them.

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

For most people, symptoms can first appear in their mid-60s. An estimated 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with the number set to rise to more than a million by 2021.

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.

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.

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.

Awareness is growing, 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.

Don’t wait to get on top of your health

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Published on 21 September 2020