Dementia has become a highly misunderstood mental health condition due to its association with ageing and memory loss. The lack of public education and awareness regarding dementia has led to many misconceptions.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease gets worse with time and affects memory, language, and thought.
What You Need To Know About Dementia?
Dementia is a series of symptoms caused by degenerative brain diseases
The assumption that dementia is just forgetfulness or memory loss, is untrue. Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms caused by degenerative brain diseases. Among these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. These are the common ones:
- Difficulty in planning and performing day-to-day activities
- Changes in mood and behaviour
- Difficulty in communication
How can I support someone with dementia?
As a person’s dementia reaches its later stages, they become increasingly dependent on others for their care.
They may have severe memory loss and no longer recognise those close to them. They may lose weight, lose their ability to walk, become incontinent, and behave in unusual ways. Not everyone will show all these signs, and some people may show them earlier on in the illness.
How to communicate with them?
As dementia progresses, it affects people’s ability to express themselves – so you may need to learn new ways to understand and communicate with the person you care for. Here are some tips:
- If they don’t seem to be making sense, try to look for the meaning behind their words.
- Speak slowly and clearly, using simple language and short sentences.
- Avoid offering them complex choices – keep things simple with questions that only need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
- Avoid testing their memory by asking them about what they’ve been doing. Try not to get into arguments about what they say – even if you think they’re mistaken. Simply listening to what they’re saying rather than correcting them can help someone feel acknowledged.
- Create a memory book to help them remember special times. This could be a collection of photos that represent happy events like weddings, holidays, or the birth of children. Memory books can help health and social care professionals understand the person. too.
Caring for a person living with dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. The role of caring can bring joy, personal growth, and a feeling of being close to family. However, it can also be stressful. You may experience frustration, grief, fatigue, social isolation, and financial pressure. Many carers also experience guilt at not being able to do enough.
Understanding more about dementia and reaching out to support services can help you in your carer journey.