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Flu Virus

2015 saw the highest increase of deaths in a single year since 2003. There were 529,613 registered fatalities, and 28,189 of those were due to influenza (also known as the flu). 24,201 flu deaths occurred in patients aged 75 and over. The flu is a highly contagious virus, passed through airborne particles and droplets, which then affects the respiratory system. Flu season runs from October to March, and what makes the virus so dangerous is the fact that the flu virus is a variable that changes yearly. No single vaccination can protect you from all the strains. The worst flu epidemic in history took place in 1918, claiming the lives of 40-50 million people, which is over half of the UK’s present-day population.

What’s even more worrying is in 2015 the fatality rate for dementia patients who had received ineffective flu jabs increased. A Medscope study revealed that those with dementia are twice as likely to die from flu. Those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may require live-in care and specialist care services specific to their illness and are more susceptible to certain illnesses, therefore creating a cause for concern. Here are five things to take into consideration for dementia patients during flu season:

1. Their immune systems are weakened


Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaques of protein (known as amyloid) building up in the brain, resulting in a loss of connection between the nerve cells of the brain which in turn kills the brain cells. The creation of the plaque is triggered by the immune system, and due to the imbalance of chemicals and lack of receptor in the brain, the immune system is cannot effectively work to its full potential. This means that those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia are more susceptible to smaller illnesses that a stronger immune system can fight off, as the receptors that help their immune system may be damaged or dead. 

2. They run a higher risk of complications


Due to the weakened immune system of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, they are at higher risk of the flu turning into more severe illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis which can be fatal. The flu can cause further behavioural issues in Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients and therefore require more complex care to help them overcome their illness. 

3. They're more susceptible if access to care is limited


It is common knowledge that Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients require more specialist care, albeit home care, live in care services or domiciliary care. Something as simple as showering, washing hands and eating a healthy and balanced diet can help prevent the flu, which is why it is so important that they have access to the right care. If patients are not living in specially equipped care homes or sanitised homes that do not have easy-to-clean ergonomic surfaces, they will be more susceptible to viruses. They may forget to treat the early symptoms of the flu and lose track of the medication that should be taken.

4. The flu vaccination is the most effective preventative


As no strand of the flu is ever the same, there is not one single vaccination that can prevent you from getting the flu. Studies have shown that the vaccination is 50-60% more likely to prevent flu however, there is still a chance of contracting the flu. That being said, the flu vaccination is the most effective way to prevent contracting the flu, and if it doesn’t interfere with the patient’s medication or put the in a life threatening situation, it should be considered.

5. There are other preventative measures


Although there is no solid way of stopping Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients from contracting the flu, there are ways it can be prevented. Washing your hands, regularly changing your clothes and sanitising and cleaning everything will help to stop germs and bacteria spreading, therefore reducing the risk of flu. 

If you suspect that a loved one of family member is suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, or you are looking for home care support for someone with these diseases, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of professionals are always willing to help.

Film and television are increasingly choosing to use dementia and Alzheimer's as plot points, or even to drive entire narratives. It is no secret that dementia has a prevalent place within our society, with 850,000 sufferers in the UK alone; this number is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025

With so many people affected by dementia and Alzheimer's, the coverage of these terminal illnesses is more than welcome, as it raises awareness and gives the public some insight into what those diagnosed go through. However, there are some myths regarding the portrayal of people with dementia that we'd like to dispel.

1. Alzheimer's disease is not a romantic or glamorous illness

Nick Cassavetes' film adaptation of The Notebook (2004) tells the tale of Noah Calhoun reading to his wife Ali. Every day, he reads their love story from a worn-out notebook in a bid to jog her memory, which has been ravaged by Alzheimer's disease. The film has been heralded as one of the most romantic movies ever, thanks to its tale of undying love. However, The Notebook romanticises Alzheimer's within a family, suggesting that everything will work out in the end given nothing more than a simple memory jog. In fact, many people forget that Alzheimer's disease is even involved in the film.

Memory loss is one of many symptoms caused by Alzheimer's disease, and this illness has an irrevocable effect of both the patient and their family.

2. Dementia isn't a 'funny' disease

When a comedy show approaches the subject of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, the results can often be compassionless and cruel. This has been seen in many television shows (Pete's mother in Gavin and Stacey, and Abe from The Simpsons). A more recent case is the representation of Cloris Leachman's character 'Maw Maw' from American sitcom Raising Hope. The Fox show has come under fire for being "not funny, but insensitive and cruel". Maw Maw is often the butt of the show's jokes; she rarely has any lucid moments, mistakes her grandson for her late husband, and forgets to put a shirt on.

Raising Hope makes caring for dementia sufferers look simple and fun, when caring for a person with dementia requires patience, understanding and strength. Caring for someone with dementia costs roughly £30,000 annually, but family carers of people with dementia save the UK economy £1 billion annually.

3. There is more to Alzheimer's disease than memory loss

Alzheimer's disease has become synonymous with memory loss, as seen in The Notebook (2004) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) among others. However, there is so much more to this complex disease. As mentioned earlier, forgetting places, names and memories is one of the many symptoms of Alzheimer's, but the majority of patients relate to a feeling of sheer panic as they cannot find a connection to anything in their surroundings. They do not recognise anything around them, and everything becomes depersonalised.

Dementia requires complex care and shouldn't ever be diminished to just one symptom.

4. Dementia has no gender preference

Until recently, actors who portrayed sufferers of dementia were predominantly female. Still Alice, The Notebook, Grey's Anatomy, The Iron Lady and Iris all show women suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, dementia does not have a gender preference; the older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from dementia, and because women tend to live longer than men, there are more female sufferers overall. 61% of dementia patients are female, and 39% are male.

5. Dementia isn't a rapid disease

Still Alice (2014) tells the story of linguistics professor Dr Alice Howland and her poignant battle with early-onset dementia. The film has been recognised as a fairly accurate portrayal of what it is like to have Alzheimer's disease, apart from the fact that Alice's decline happens in under a year. Alzheimer's disease and dementia can take as long as ten years to fully develop; vascular dementia is the quickest form of dementia to develop, but it is incredibly rare in anyone under the age of 65.

If you suspect that a loved one of family member is suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia, or you are looking for support for someone with these diseases, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of professionals are always willing to help.
Alzheimer's disease is a physical disease that causes a buildup of proteins in the brain, which then forms structures known as 'tangles' or 'plaques', that can cause nerve cells to die, as they block signals and connections in the brain. This can cause a significant loss of brain tissue, as well as limiting the production of chemicals in the brain meaning that important messages are no longer delivered.

Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and 520,000 of them have Alzheimer's disease. One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss, increased confusion and a decline in cognitive functions. The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease develops slowly over a number of years, and every patient will experience the illness differently.

Memory loss is a symptoms that can be incredibly distressing for both the patient and their family members, which is why it is important to utilise the support and therapies that are available once a diagnosis has been made. Projects and tasks that help calm patients down, with the goal of making them feel safe and comfortable is imperative, getting specialised home care services also being highly beneficial to help patients deal with their day to day routine. There are also activities that can be used to improve memories should always be taken into consideration. Here are a few tips and tricks to help stimulate memory.


Stay Calm and Be Understanding


Communicating and spending time with someone who has Alzheimer's disease can be incredibly frustrating and distressing for both parties involved. Alzheimer's causes patients to forget certain words, lose their train of thought, understanding what words mean and much more. Memory loss can have a severe effect on someone's ability to communicate, which is why it is important to stay calm, be very considerate and really understanding when talking to someone with Alzheimer's disease.

Finding out that a loved one does not remember who you are can be devastating, but it is important to remember that when your relative or friend is lashing out, it is their disease taking control. It can be very difficult but try not to take it personally and stay positive. Make sure your body language and tone of voice is warm, welcoming so that the person you are talking to feels comfortable and safe. If communication becomes stressful or upsetting for the patient then calmly distract the person with an activity you know they enjoy.

Holding the person's hand whilst you talk to them, and offering gentle touches will also help to calm them - especially when they are struggling with their train of thought and emotions. If it becomes too much for you to handle then take a five minute break and try again. 


Try Brain Training Apps


Brain training games and apps have become a phenomenon in the medical field. Game based applications that require players to stimulate the cognitive and memory functions of the brain are proven to strengthen the player's ability to pay attention and problem solve. 

Brain training games can help to improve patients undertaking everyday tasks, such as going on public transport and cooking meals, giving them their independence back. These brain training activities help sufferers to maintain their cognitive functions, as well as using their memory for exercises.

Free brain training applications such as  Lumosity (for IOS and Android) offers a plethora of brain training and scientific games to help strengthen the brain. The games teach users to problem solve, whilst ignoring distractions and things that are not relevant to the scenario playing out on screen.


Arts and Crafts


Crafting is a fantastic way for those who suffer with Dementia and Alzheimer's to utilise their time and energy, as they are able to use their hands (helping to calm tremors), excercise their brain and regain some independence by doing an activity for themselves.

Arts & Crafts

Certain colours, shapes and activities (such as knitting) may also trigger them to remember events from their past. There have been cases where patients who are despondent start to communicate and become a bit more positive about their current situation. They become active and want to participate in other activities. 

Busy blankets or fidget blankets are also a fantastic way to help sooth relentless fidgeting and pacing. Often, non-drug related fidgeting and restlessness occurs in those with Dementia as they feel that they need to be doing something, and when they feel this way it can result in feelings of agitation. Arts, crafts and busy blankets also help their sensory stimulation, and can have a therapeutic effect.


Make a Personalised Photo Album


A personalised photo album will not only help to stimulate an Alzheimer's patient's memory, it also makes a fantastic gift. Photo albums and scrap books are a brilliant way to review and reminisce of the past, and this is no exception when it comes to patients. However, this activity should be done with great care as looking back on a patient’s past may bring up upsetting memories, therefore resulting in feelings of sadness, anger or fear. 

If you decide to create a personalised photo album or scrapbook, then place the images in chronological order, as this will avoid confusion and make sense to your loved one. Make sure you pick out truly meaningful and happy moments, as this may trigger warm, loving memories. If your loved one gets confused or says the wrong name, avoid trying to correct them as the main aim of this activity is to connect with them.

Sharing your own memories and asking open ended questions such as, "where did you go as a child?" can help to trigger memories and create a positive bond. Although you want the patient to remember their life, making sure that they know that they have congenial company and are safe should always come first.

If you suspect a loved or family member is suffering with Alzheimer's or Dementia, or are looking for support for someone with these diseases do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of professionals are always willing to help. 
Scientists have made a medical breakthrough by creating a drug that stops the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The drug, which is the first of its kind, has halted deterioration of the brain, which is caused by Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.

Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK, and 520,000 of them have Alzheimer's disease, a physical disease that affects the brain. Alzheimer's causes a build-up of proteins in the brain, which then forms structures known as 'tangles' or 'plaques'. These plaques results in no connection between nerve cells, causing them to die, along with a loss of brain tissue. It also limits the production of chemicals in the brain, meaning that important messages are not transmitted.


What is Alzheimer's Disease?

The symptoms of Alzheimer's include memory loss, depression, hallucinations, inability to judge distances and dimensions, inability to concentrate, and becoming easily confused. As Alzheimer's disease progresses, the symptoms become more severe and patients often end up in need of home care services to help support them in their daily routine and assist with certain tasks.

There are already drugs (such as Donepezil) to control the symptoms of Alzheimer's, as well as therapy to help delay memory loss. However, this drug is the first of its kind to stop the deterioration of the brain, with some patients' deterioration rate stabilising for as long as 18 months. Research has shown that those who have taken the drug have had their fundamental cognitive skills maintained throughout the study.

These results were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto by Dr Serge Gauthier of McGill University. He said:

"This is the first time it has happened in our field that a drug reduces the rate of brain atrophy. As a practising clinician, I see Alzheimer's patients, their families and caregivers continually share their desperate need for a truly therapeutic product."

If you have a family member who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and would like some advice on how best to care for them, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Care at home

Why choose home care?

As we grow older, we can sometimes find difficulty in everyday tasks. From getting around to cooking and cleaning, age and illness can often limit many aspects of our life. Whilst some people have family and friends around to lend a hand, others can find that these restrictions cause a real problem within their routine.

Independence is something that people worry about when they begin to struggle, but requiring a little extra assistance doesn’t need to compromise an independent way of life when it comes to home care.

What is home care?

Home care refers to a level of assistance within your own home. An ideal situation for when hospital care is not necessary, and a care home is not appropriate. It provides a middle ground for people who wish to continue living in their own home but have simply grown to need an extra hand with certain tasks.

There are different levels of care available to cater for different needs. In each case, a specially trained professional visits the home to assist.
  • Personal & Housekeeping Care refers to a rounded level of care. Where any household tasks are taken care off, as well as personal hygiene and general wellbeing. Personal domiciliary care can help a person to continue to feel like themselves, while housekeeping care can ensure they are living comfortably and continuing to enjoy their own home.

  • Nursing Care is best when the person requiring care is dealing with an illness. This type of live-in care ensures that they are receiving the correct level of medication and dealing with any symptoms in the best way possible.

  • Companionship Care is predominantly about providing some social time. According to Age UK, in May 2016, over 2 million people over the age of 75 are living alone in the UK. For those with few friends and family, companionship can make a big difference to their happiness.

How does care at home benefit you?

One of the greatest benefits of home care is its flexible nature. Those being cared for can enjoy their own home and continue to live as they wish, as care can be tailored around them. Home care ranges from 24 hour round-the-clock to short and emergency visits, meaning that each person has an arrangement that has been carefully decided upon based on their individual needs.

Home care offers one-on-one assistance, bringing with it a personal touch and a high standard. All care agencies report to the Care Quality Commission and carers are put through a series of checks to ensure their eligibility in such a position of trust.

If you are considering how home care could benefit you, or a loved one, and would like to know more about our home care services in and around Birmingham, Leicester and Bradford, get in touch with Sova Healthcare today to discuss how we can help.