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Dementia: Understanding the Condition and Providing Care

Dementia is a term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with a decline in cognitive function, including memory loss, difficulty with language, problem-solving, and decision-making.

What is Dementia?

Sometimes, memory can be affected by exhaustion, stress, various medical conditions and even medicines. But becoming increasingly forgetful, especially over the age of 65, might have something to do with early signs of dementia.

Dementia is a neurological condition associated with abnormal changes in the functioning of the brain. The brain is made up of millions of neurons that communicate every second. When someone has dementia, the communication between these neurons is compromised, and information can’t be sent efficiently to the rest of the body. Memory loss, as the most prominent symptom, can affect everyday life, but having memory loss alone doesn’t mean a person has dementia.

Dementia is not only about memory loss, though. It can affect how people think, speak and feel. The typical brain function can be affected enough to impact someone’s everyday life. However, it is essential to know that dementia is not a natural part of ageing. Although a cure hasn’t been found, people often lead fulfilling lives for many years after their dementia diagnosis.

What is Dementia Home Care?

Dementia home care includes a wide range of methods and tools to reduce the effects of dementia while offering reassurance to the person affected and their families.

A slight change in routine or environment can overwhelm a person with dementia. This is why more and more families are choosing home care, as it proves to be beneficial for their loved one to remain in a place in which they are familiar.

Unique Community Services has been built to offer assistance to support people to retain as much of their independence as possible. Our team of handpicked carers aims to maintain people’s everyday routines, reduce stress on the family and help everyone live as fulfilled a life as possible.

Benefits of Dementia Home Care

Dementia home care is quickly becoming the preferred choice for families that have a loved one with an early diagnosis of dementia, because of the many benefits.

  • A safer environment with fewer hospital admissions
  • Staying in a familiar environment to evoke memories
  • Constant attention from both carers and loved ones
  • Maintaining routine and independence
  • Personalised healthy diet
  • Daily physical therapy
  • Easier symptom monitoring
  • Performing daily activities
  • Care that adapts to each person with dementia individually
  • Providing consistent social interaction
  • Living with dignity

The goal of home care is not only to provide support but also to help people developing dementia to maintain their independence and improve their quality of life in general.

Early Signs and Symptoms

The early signs and dementia symptoms are subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Although the symptoms can vary, there are some common early signs.

Studies show that one of the most significant risk factors for dementia is age. People over 65 who get diagnosed with dementia expressed having subtle short-term memory changes, difficulty finding the right words, changes in mood and reduced concentration as some of the earliest symptoms.

Memory loss

Memory loss is one of the most prominent dementia symptoms of any type. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, it is one of the very first symptoms.

Memory can be affected in a variety of ways. Some people will be unable to create new memories, or it will take much longer to retrieve information. For others, it means that they find it easier to think of older memories that are more firmly established, such as things repeated many times in their life.

Memory loss affects everyone differently, but many people with dementia can experience:

  • Struggling to find the right words when talking
  • Forgetting names of people, places, and objects
  • Forgetting recent conversations
  • Being confused in familiar surroundings
  • Misplacing items like keys, a remote, phone

Some of the fascinating things about memory loss in dementia are that people with various types of dementia might still be able to remember emotional events like weddings or birthdays. This is because memory is always connected to emotion. Usually, the emotion can be triggered by senses such as smelling a familiar fragrance or hearing a particular song.

Reduced Concentration

No two people experience dementia the same way, but the reduced concentration is a challenging symptom that most people with Vascular dementia share.

As dementia progresses, a person’s attention to a task reduces. At first, it may seem that the person is more distracted doing everyday tasks than usual. In the later stages, however, people have difficulties doing basic tasks like dressing up, making a cup of coffee or finishing their crossword.

Behaviour Changes

Behaviour changes for a variety of reasons. In dementia, it is usually because the brain loses neuron connections in different parts of the brain. How the behaviour changes will depend on which part of the brain is most affected.

Dementia alters how people respond to their environment. For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease might have trouble following conversation pathways, which can be frustrating. For others, noise and crowds can be overstimulating. Also, many people with dementia mirror other people’s emotions, so if the person they are looking at is sad or anxious, they will also become sad or anxious.

People with dementia often have changes in behaviour because they can no longer do the things they enjoy or perform daily activities without help.

Loss of Ability to do Everyday Tasks

Each of us has our own way of doing things, but for people that develop dementia, everyday tasks become more complex.

Impairments in the ability to do everyday tasks like bathing, eating, and dressing are a result of mild cognitive impairment, behavioural, and functional changes. Dementia is a progressive condition, and as it progresses, people may need reminding to take a shower, make lunch or dry their hair.

Delusions

Delusions are also known as firmly held false beliefs and are one of the most common symptoms of dementia.

People with dementia may be unable to put pieces of information and memories together correctly, leading them to make false conclusions and even feel threatened and suspicious of other people. Delusions are a common symptom with Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular types of dementia, but are less common in people with frontotemporal dementia.

Sundowning

Sometimes people with dementia may behave in complicated ways to understand in the late afternoon – this phenomenon is known as “Sundowning.”

During the later afternoon or early evening, a person with dementia might become distressed, agitated, or even have delusions. These symptoms might continue into the night, which might make it harder for them to get a good night sleep.

How Dementia Is Diagnosed

Getting a timely dementia diagnosis can provide a better understanding of the condition and help make important decisions about support and care.

There isn’t a straightforward test to diagnose dementia, so a diagnosis is often based on a mix of assessments. The process also varies, but usually, a general practitioner will carry out an initial assessment and if they believe the symptoms point to dementia, they will refer the person with dementia to a specialist.

The specialist will continue further assessments and tests that can prove the cause of the symptoms and signpost to the right support for every individual. Some of these tests include:

  • Cognitive and neurological tests
  • Brain scans
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Genetic tests
  • Blood tests

Can Dementia be Passed on to Children?

The hereditary nature of dementia varies depending on the type. However, the majority of dementia cases, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, are influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While having a family history of dementia may increase the risk, it doesn’t guarantee its development. Regular health check-ups, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing risk factors can all play a role in potentially reducing the chances of developing dementia, especially in cases where there’s a genetic predisposition.

Types of Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a major neurocognitive disorder that causes memory loss. The changes in the brain make it hard for people to perform daily activities, and in most cases, dementia causes changes in personality and behaviour.

Although there are different types of dementia, all of them affect three main areas of the brain:

  • language
  • memory
  • decision-making

The different types of dementia all follow different levels of progression but most are graded along a set of stages and types:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Alcohol-related Dementia
  • Mixed Dementia
  • Lewy Body Dementia

Causes of Dementia

Changes in the brain cause dementia. Dementia affects the brain’s ability to communicate with various areas and can result from blocked flood flow depriving the brain of oxygen and nutrients. The most common causes of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia that occurs in people who have long-term blood pressure or strokes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia or Pick’s disease
  • Severe head injuries
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Diseases that affect the white matter of the brain
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Some cases of multiple sclerosis
  • Infections like late-stage syphilis

Depending on the area of the brain affected, the symptoms will vary.

Dementia due to other issues and conditions

Dementia is also related to conditions like AIDS, Huntington’s disease, and chronic alcohol abuse.

Furthermore, people with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21 which contains a gene that increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Other dementia risk factors, issues and conditions include:

  • Huntington’s disease – a rare brain disorder
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury

Dementia Treatments

Currently, a cure for dementia hasn’t been found. But medicines and other treatment options can slow down the effects, and in turn help people with dementia to live a fulfilling life.

Medications reduce dementia symptoms, but other treatment options include cognitive rehabilitation that reduces cognitive decline, cognitive stimulation therapy and life story work.

Stages of Dementia

The progression of dementia will vary depending on the underlying cause. When it comes to the different stages, typically, they can be categorised as early (mild), middle (moderate) and late (severe) stages.

Early Stage

  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing track of time
  • Becoming lost in familiar places

Middle Stage

  • Forgetting recent events and people’s names
  • Being confused at home
  • Difficulty with communication
  • Needing help with personal care
  • Behaviour changes

Late Stage

  • Becoming unaware of the time and place
  • Having difficulties recognizing family and friends
  • Having difficulty walking
  • Behaviour changes that may escalate

Dementia Home Care with UCS

People in the UK who have Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia might choose to stay at home after getting their diagnosis. This option has been shown to help people with dementia stay healthier and live a longer life.

At Unique Community Services, we focus our attention on home care, provided for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to an individually tailored care plan.

If you want to find out more about how our UCS team can help, give us a call or visit our website.

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Tamara

A seasoned SEO Content Writer with more than five years of writing experience in the healthcare industry. She derives value from creating high-quality content that spreads awareness about mental health and people’s well-being.

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