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Caring for someone with Alzheimer's

Coming to terms with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's can be tough on both the individual and their surrounding friends and family. You want to be as prepared as possible and provided with the adequate answers to the questions you are bound to ask. This being said, the internet can often be a misleading place and facts can become misconstrued, leaving you with false information and an uninformed mindset. To offer a helping hand, we have listed five of the most common Alzheimer’s myths and facts.

Myth #1: Only old people can get Alzheimer's disease

This is a common misconception which most likely stems from people’s pre-determined image of a typical Alzheimer’s sufferer. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s can get Alzheimer’s disease and, in this case, is known as Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. Out of the 850,000 people diagnosed with the disease, around 42,325 of those will be young, with symptoms presenting from the age of 30 onwards.

Myth #2: Diet, exercise and mental activities prevent Alzheimer's disease

Past stories in the press and media may have lead you to believe that exercising and sticking to a healthy diet can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, there is no solid scientific evidence to prove that there is any correlation between the two. Leading a healthy lifestyle is great for your health in general but, when it comes to Alzheimer’s, may only help to reduce the progression of symptoms rather than the actual onset.

Myth #3: Alzheimer's is completely down to genetics

Although there are certain gene mutations which are linked to Alzheimer’s, there’s a lot more to the disease than that. There are certain gene mutations which will lead to the onset of Alzheimer’s but there is yet to be an adequate amount of research done into this to prove a correlation. By far, the biggest factor contributing towards Alzheimer’s disease is aging.

Myth #4: Depression can cause Alzheimer's

Although it is common for those with Alzheimer’s to develop depression due to a range of factors, the mental health condition has not been proven to cause the disease’s onset. The mental health condition can arise during the early and middle stages and has a significant impact on the individual’s quality of life.

Myth #5: There are treatments available to prevent the progression of Alzheimer's

At this moment in time, there are currently no treatments available that effectively prevent or delay the symptoms developing. There are, however, FDA-approved drugs which can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for about 6-12 months. However, this is not the case for 100% of sufferers taking the drugs; due to their nature and the individual in question, the medication is only effective for only half of its users. 

If you’d like to discuss Alzheimer’s with a member of our team, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is a common type of dementia, and affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK. 62% of those with dementia have the disease in the form of Alzheimer's disease. Both Alzheimer's disease and dementia are progressive neurological diseases that affect multiple brain functions over a long period of time. The first symptom of Alzheimer's disease is usually minor problems with memory. In some cases, this could be forgetting the names of people, places and items or being unable to remember recent events or conversations.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?


It is unclear what the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, but there are numerous things give an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's later on in life. For example:
  • Getting older
  • A family history of dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • A history of severe head injuries
  • Conditions affecting blood vessels
  • Conditions affecting the heart
Research has shown that it is very common to have both of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia together. This is known as mixed dementia.


What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?


Because Alzheimer's is a progressive neurological disease, different functions of the brain will be affected at different times. As the disease progresses, memory loss will become more severe and other symptoms will become more prominent, such as:
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Problems planning and making decisions
  • Difficulty with speech and language
  • Issues moving around without assistance
  • Problems performing self-care tasks
  • Changes in personality, such as hallucinations and becoming aggressive, demanding, and suspicious of others
  • Low mood or anxiety

Who is affected by Alzheimer's?


Alzheimer's disease affects more women than men, and affects 1 in 14 people over the age of 65, and 1 in 6 people over the age of 80. Whilst Alzheimer's disease is most prominent in those over the age of 65, around 1 in every 20 cases of Alzheimer's disease affects those aged 40 to 65.

According to the ONS, 11.6% of registered deaths in the UK were attributed to Alzheimer's disease. Due to the nature of Alzheimer's disease, it is a fatal disease where people will pass away due to the symptoms. Utilising palliative end-of-life care will help ease the pain and make those with Alzheimer's much more comfortable before they die.


How much does dementia cost the UK?


Dementia currently costs the UK £26 billion a year,  working out at an average yearly cost of £32,250 per person with dementia. People with dementia and their families are currently paying two-thirds of the cost, with £11.6 billion in unpaid care and the rest in private social care.


How to cope when a loved one has Alzheimer's disease


If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, you may find that your relationship changes. You will become the main caregiver as your loved one may no longer be able to continue with certain daily tasks such as showering, household chores and financial matters. Making all these decisions and being the main carer can feel very overwhelming - especially as you are watching the person you love change right in front of your eyes. 

Looking at types of home care services such as live-in care and domiciliary care will help ease the pressure of being a sole carer. Due to the different types of dementia, you will need require different types of care, such as specialist dementia care. If you’d like some advice regarding Alzheimer’s or have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Dementia Awareness

With Dementia set to be the biggest killer of the 21st century, having an understanding of the disease itself is essential. From the 14th to the 20th of May, Dementia Awareness week will be commencing to raise awareness for the disease which will affect 1 in 6 people in the UK.

What is Dementia?

Contrary to popular belief, Dementia is not actually a disease but instead refers to various brain disorders which affect brain function, causing symptoms such as disorientation and memory issues.

The most common illness which Dementia encompasses is Alzheimer's which accounts for two-thirds of all cases. The early symptoms of Dementia are often hard to diagnose as they can be relatively mild but will often progress to sufferers requiring around-the-clock care.

How to Look After Someone with Dementia

Every single case of Dementia is unique meaning the care given has to be just as unique. Tailoring the care to their specific needs makes sure the most compassionate support is given whilst a sense of independence is maintained to preserve self confidence.

Providing efficient care for someone with Dementia also requires special consideration of both the individual's physical and mental state. Taking regular exercise breaks also means that side effects such as depression and social withdrawal can be avoided. It's all about taking each day as it comes and making the right decisions based upon the individual's needs.

How Does Dementia Awareness Week Help?

Being diagnosed with Dementia is a scary and unsettling experience for most. Research carried out by Dementia UK found that 45% of sufferers thought they would have to immediately stop driving a car, while another 22% feared they would lose their partner or friends.

By dedicating a week to show our support and care for those with Dementia and their carers, we can get closer and closer to finding a cure and preventing the destruction of more lives. Attending local fundraising events is an easy, fun way to show your support and dedicate a few hours towards a great cause.

How Can Sova Healthcare Help You?

Looking after someone with Dementia can be a challenge and can take its toll on your health and wellbeing too. If someone close to you is suffering from Dementia and you'd like some extra support or advice on what to do next, get in touch today.

Older people holding hands

Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia can severely test the vows you made to one another many moons ago. It is a very difficult and strenuous job that inevitably causes pain and grief for the person you once knew - before dementia came crashing into your lives.

However, whilst loving and caring for someone with dementia can be hard, you will find that it can be incredibly rewarding if you remember a few important things. So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day (14th February), here is what you should consider when your partner has dementia:

Dementia does not define who they are.


Being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia is devastating and life-changing both for the patient and for their loved ones, but it is crucial to remember that dementia does not become that person. You knew who they were before their diagnosis, and it is important to hold on to those memories of who they really are.

Dementia is responsible for their mood swings and personality changes.


Dementia is a physical disease that causes a build-up of proteins in the brain. These proteins then form plaques that kill nerve cells and block signals / connections in the brain. This causes significant loss and damage of brain tissue, alongside the production of chemicals because important messages are no longer being delivered.

All of this is responsible for the mood swings and personality changes you see in your partner - it is imperative to remember that it is the disease that is progressing and causing this.

Learn as much as you can about dementia.


Educating yourself about dementia as much as you possibly can means that you will be able to better understand what is happening to your loved one and why. This means that you can rationalise the situation and empathise with your partner, as well as preparing for the future.

Love your partner for who they are now.


Watching the person you've spent your life with change before your very eyes is a devastating experience, but it is essential that you learn to love your partner with dementia (even as you hold on to the memories of what they were like before). Once you have grieved for the loss of the person you loved - and learned to love them anew - accepting the fact that you may not be able to 'reach' the person they once were becomes easier. Former Alzheimer's caregiver Ellen Woodward Potts states, "The key to coming to terms with this loss is to realise that the human being you have known and loved is still there, but their persona has been masked by Alzheimer's."

Expect the unexpected.


It is important to be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your loved one. Make sure the goals you set are realistic, and don't get wound up if they are not met. For example, if an activity your partner used to love now causes a negative response then accept this and try something different. Remember, it is the progression of the disease that is causing their behaviour.

Learn to let things go.


Learning to let things go when your partner suffers from dementia is one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of the disease, but it is a crucial one. Their mood swings, personality changes and memory loss will be caused by the progression of plaque build-up in their brain, so make sure you are not arguing with them over a forgotten memory or the way they are behaving as it will only upset the pair of you. Be willing to take the high ground and let it go.

Listen to your own limitations.


Those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease may require a range of home care, from specialist domiciliary care to palliative care. This is a huge responsibility for professional caregivers, let alone family members who also act as caregivers. Due to the complex needs and characteristics of dementia, the disease costs the UK over £26 billion per year, and there are currently over 670,000 carers in the UK. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or additional support when you feel overwhelmed.

Make sure you rely on friends and family members if necessary. You're doing everything imaginable - and more - to be there for your partner, and it's important to remember that your support network will be there for you too. Understand your own emotional and physical limitations; it takes a strong person to do all of this alone, but it takes an even stronger person to ask for help when they need it.

Explore methods of communication.


Communication is something that the majority of dementia patients struggle with to one degree or another, but poetry, dance, music, arts and crafts are all good ways to connect with your partner. These methods are especially helpful when your loved one is no longer able to verbally communicate. Remember, a gentle touch on the arm and a kind approach will also show them just how loved they still are.

Dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK alone, and this number is expected to rise to 1,142,677 by 2025. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, but no two people living with dementia are the same. If you would like advice on how to care for a family member with dementia, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
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.