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Everyday life with dementia

Over 850,000 people are suffering from dementia in the UK, and this figure is expected to rise to over 1 million by 2025. It's also predicted that 225,000 will develop dementia this year - one person will be diagnosed every three minutes. Dementia is an umbrella term for a progressive and degenerative brain disease, and has over 200 different subtypes. The five most common types of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia

What is dementia?

The human brain is made up of nerve cells (neurones) that send messages as a way of communicating with each other. Dementia damages the brain's nerve cells, which means that messages can't be sent to and from the brain effectively, preventing the body from functioning normally.

Dementia and everyday life

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease impacts Activities of Daily Living (ADL), making it difficult for those with the disease to complete simple activities that we often take for granted, such as bathing, doing laundry or cleaning. It is important to remember that not every person suffering from dementia will look dishevelled and unkempt, and different stages of the disease will alter the way in which the person in question will complete the task.

Why does dementia have an impact on everyday life?

Because dementia is a progressive and degenerative brain disease, it impedes messages that are transmitted in the brain. These messages help people execute day-to-day activities that we often see as mundane and take for granted. Here are the following functions that dementia affects, and the ADL this alters.

Executive Functioning

Dementia affects a person's executive functioning, making it challenging for them to complete simple tasks, and the steps that go into them, such as having a shower or getting dressed. All of these day-to-day tasks have a sequence of steps, which is why it isn't uncommon to see people wearing underwear over their trousers.

Dementia impedes the brain's ability to sequence, plan and organise multiple-step activities. For those who want to continue living at home after their dementia diagnosis, assisted-living carers are a great way to help you maintain your independence in the comfort of your own home. Domiciliary Home Care Services for dementia patients means that day-to-day living activities such as bathing and getting dressed will be much easier, as there is added support.

Memory

Memory loss is one of the most renowned symptoms of dementia, and this disease affects both long-term and short-term memory. Whether it is forgetting where you grew up or how to make a cup of tea, sometimes the person with dementia may forget how to perform ADL tasks such as how to clean your teeth or put clean clothes on. Having a live-in carer support you with day-to-day activities you find you might struggle with can help you keep your independence and stay in the comfort of your own home.

Judgement and attention

Due to the lack of signals being sent around the brain, judgement, attention and decision making are notably affected. This can be something as simple as choosing to turn the heating on during the middle of winter, or deciding that you're going to the shop in the middle of the night. This lack of judgement and attention can also be quite dangerous for the person in question, and others around them - for example, they might leave the oven on or forget to blow a candle out. Domiciliary care and night care can help dementia patients with their judgement, as a live-in carer or visiting carer may help guide them to make safer decisions, whilst allowing them to keep their own independence.

Behavioural and psychological symptoms

Many family members find that the behaviour of their loved ones has changed in the later stages of dementia. In some instances, they find their loved ones resist any help or assistance with day-to-day activities, further complicating things. Specialist care services from professional dementia and Alzheimer’s carers will help to alleviate this.

How can family members help dementia patients with everyday living activities?

  • Stay calm
  • Give one direction at a time
  • Prioritise what is important
  • Give day-to-day tasks extra time to decrease stress
  • Use humour (appropriately)
  • Get to know the caregiver and build a good rapport
  • Take a break if it's not going well and try again later
  • Practice the activity in the same routine every day
Get in touch with Sova Healthcare today.

Stages of Dementia

With 50 million people across the world currently diagnosed with dementia, the illness affects countless numbers of people around the globe. If you or a loved one are one has recently been diagnosed with the early symptoms of dementia, then you may be looking to find out more regarding what you can expect from this progressive illness over the coming years. To help you learn and understand more about the stages of dementia, we've created an in-depth guide based on the Global Deterioration Scale to provide you with a basic understanding of the illness, and ensure that you and your loved ones are provided with all the necessary support and understanding surrounding the diagnosis of dementia.

Stage 1

Stage one relates to a healthy person whose memory and mind are both intact and functioning at a normal level. The majority of people would fall within stage one, and would be considered medically healthy and dementia free if examined by a doctor.

Stage 2

A person who falls within the stage 2 category would be subject to forgetfulness, but only on a very minor scale that is typically associated with ageing. This level of memory loss is often imperceptible and would most likely not be linked to dementia.

Stage 3

Stage three is distinctively more noticeable than the previous stage and typically represents the first diagnosable early signs of dementia. Stage three begins to affect people's daily activities, where individuals may find themselves forgetting things more frequently, experiencing difficulty concentrating, and potentially struggling to express themselves. If a person is medically diagnosed as showing symptoms of stage three dementia, then they typically have seven years before the dementia comes into full effect.

Stage 4

Perhaps the most medically diagnosable early stage of dementia, those who are displaying symptoms of stage four may struggle to perform complex tasks, as well as potentially being unable to cope with travelling or visiting new locations. The short term memory may also begin to decline, with individuals struggling to recall more recent events or memories. If someone is showing signs of falling within category four, then typically physical signs of mental deterioration should be present in medical cognitive assessments.

Stage 5

Stage five sufferers are those who start to experience a major loss of mental ability. Often needing help to complete simple day to day tasks, individuals at stage five may require aid for getting dressed, eating, showering or other similar activities. Within stage five, memory capacity dips significantly and people may struggle to forget more significant parts of their lives such as where they live or what day it is.

Stage 6

Those who fall within stage six of the Global Deterioration Scale are typically described as experiencing the 'middle stages' of dementia. This means that often extensive care and assistance have to be given in order to help the individual accomplish the majority of simple tasks. Physical deterioration also starts to become more prevalent, where those suffering from stage six dementia may begin to lose control of both their bladder and their speech. Memory loss also becomes increasingly extensive, with individuals frequently forgetting their family members, friends, and even who they are themselves. Some may even experience hallucinations or false memories where they are convinced certain things are true that are not.

Stage 7

Medically associated as being the 'final' stage of dementia, stage seven typically occurs within two and a half years of an individual hitting stage six. During this final phase, a person frequently loses all ability to communicate or help themselves due to a build up of abnormal proteins within the brain that slowly degenerate and 'kill off' the cranial cells. Frequently resulting in individuals being unable to walk, talk or eat by themselves, those experiencing stage seven of dementia require nearly full time care in order to help them accomplish basic bodily functions.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, why not reach out to one of our friendly professional team to see what we can do to help and support you every step of the way.

Dementia Research

With technology constantly evolving and our understanding of science ever improving, the research being done into dementia is continually advancing, as doctors and scientists alike work to tackle and overcome dementia once and for all. And with 2018 promising to hold a number of exciting developments into dementia research, we’ve put together some of our predictions for the year, as we explore what we can expect from dementia research within 2018.

The Eradication of Care vs. Cure

Perhaps one of the fiercest debates of dementia research, there’s historically been a reigning debate regarding funding towards both the care and cure of the disease, with people divided as to which should take precedence. However in 2018, we predict that things may start to change, with equal attention and research being given to both sectors. With the Alzheimer’s Society dedicating significant money into researching the improvement of care for all those suffering from dementia, a great step has been taken into equalising the two research points, with equal weight and attention being given to seeking the cure to dementia as well as improving the lives of those suffering.

A Decrease in Data for Dementia

With talks in place regarding the NHS and data sharing, people will soon have the choice to opt out of sharing their medical data, meaning that less statistics and information will be available on dementia within the next year.

A Shift in Dementia Research Focus

Since dementia is caused by the presence of abnormal proteins in the brain, up until now a lot of research focus has been on the two most abundant proteins found in the brain for those suffering from dementia; amyloid and tau. However researchers now think they may have a new lead into uncovering medical development for the disease. Although researchers have long since known that the immune system is affected by dementia, it has generally been considered simply a side effect of the carnal deterioration. However now they believe the immune system may actually play a significant role in activating and causing the disease, meaning that in 2018 we can expect to see a shift in research focus from cranial proteins to the immune system.

A Renewal of 'Challenge on Dementia'

An initiative that was first launched in 2012 by the government, Challenge on Dementia is a programme that focuses on researching and curing the deteriorative cranial disease. Renewed in 2015, the initiative will end in 2020, unless it is once again renewed in the coming Spring. However considering the progress and success that has been made whilst under the initiative, it is likely that Challenge on Dementia will be implemented once more in 2018, allowing funding and research to continue to excel.

The Discovery of Potential Drugs

Thanks to the medical and scientific development made throughout 2017, there is a strong likelihood that we will see an increase in the progressive nature of dementia drugs within 2018. With the Alzheimer's Society dedicating a new programme to drug discovery, a study has shown that a diabetes drug could in fact benefit sufferers of dementia. With the promise of further research being done into this new revolutionary drug, 2018 hopes to be an game changer of a year in regards to dementia research.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, reach out to one of our friendly team today and we’ll work tirelessly to provide you with all the support and care that you need.

Winter weather

With Britain currently in its coldest months right now it is important to remember those most vulnerable. Although not many people like the cold weather, this is more of a worrying time for older people and especially people who suffer from Dementia. Things that might come to us naturally such as turning up the central heating or putting on a extra layer of clothing don’t always come naturally to someone with Dementia. These are things they may forget how to do or struggle to do themselves, that’s why its is important to take steps to ensure your loved ones with Dementia are safe in the colder months.

Here at Sova Healthcare we know Dementia and with our specialist care services staff working with dementia patients, we know what the most common issues can be so we’ve put together some tips on how to stay prepared in the winter months.

Preparing the house

It is recommended getting heating systems serviced before the harsher and colder months strike. Many boiler and heating system breakdowns happen at the start of winter due to heating not being used throughout the summer, this will ensure the heating and boiler are in proper working order and minimise the risk of a breakdown. It is also advisable to get extra bedding and blankets if not already available for colder nights.

Keeping warm

Clothing

This is something someone with Dementia may need help with, as in instances they can forget how to dress themselves, remember where warmer clothes are kept or not have a sense for putting on more layers for the cold. Try helping them dress where possible, also leaving clothing in places where it is visible such as on the back of the chair or bed can be really helpful. Leaving out extra blankets and throws is also helpful. When heading outdoors it is also important that they have a good insulated coat for the winter as well as some sturdy boots with a good grip to minimise risk of falling.

Central heating

As mentioned above as well as checking that central heating is in proper working order, it is important to check which temperature the heating is at and turn this slightly higher for the winter months. During the winter older people tend to feel more colder than a normal person as their circulation declines, therefore it is important for the heating to keep them warm. It is also worth ensuring that the heating is on a timer to be on at times they are most likely to be at home, you can also get home monitoring systems that will track the temperature in the house and send an alert if it falls below a certain point.

Food and drink

Ensure there is enough food at home so that they don't have to keep making trips outside, also encourage them to make hot drinks as well as having at least one hot meal a day. This will help keep them warm as well making sure they are eating properly. If they are unable to cook for themselves try and leave some ready meals in the fridge/freezer which they can heat up.

Going outdoors

Winter shoes and coat

With icy roads and cold temperatures outside, although it is advisable for older people to go outside and not stay indoors too long. It is important to ensure they are as safe as possible through having the correct clothing such as shoes with a strong grip and a good winter coat.

Walking aids

Walking aids such as walking stick, walking frames or being accompanied when outdoors can help prevent slips and falls on icy grounds.

Alarms

Providing them with a pendant fall alarm is a good idea throughout the year if they're prone to falls, but particularly so during winter.

Snow

If there has been heavy snowfall of conditions outside are icy you loved one may need assistance with clearing up driveways or gritting so that they can safely leave the house.

As well as these important factors, it is also important that you make regular contact with the person with dementia. Whether it is through using our dementia care services, where a carer can help and assist with all their needs or with regular calls and visits from yourself. This will help keep them safe and ensure they don’t become too lonely. This way they can also share any problems they are having or if they become ill.

Can exercise help with dementia?

There has been increasing evidence that exercise reduces the chance of Alzheimer's disease by almost half, this is supported by the landmark study conducted by Cambridge University which looked at the seven lifestyle threats fuelling rising levels of dementia. The research has stated that one in three cases for the condition can be prevented if individuals increased their activity levels. Making healthier lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking can also reduce the risk of dementia as it was found that smoking increases dementia risk by 59 percent. In the study published in the Lancet Neurology, exercise is identified as the most significant factor in protection against the condition.

Why exercise and what are the benefits?

Exercise is not only beneficial for general health helping us to retain our cognitive and physical abilities as we age, it can help protect against dementia and slow down the progression of the condition. Many studies have revealed that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain, therefore it is important to keep these both as a top priority when it comes to preventing many conditions not just dementia. This is something regular exercise plays a huge part in, many of the other benefits of exercising involve:

  • Helping with sleeping and preventing restlessness
  • Reducing the risk of depression
  • Encouraging social well being. You can meet like minded people by joining exercise groups or at the gym
  • Physical fitness and wellbeing
  • Helping individuals keep in touch with nature by using the outdoors
  • Helping to promote an active lifestyle
  • Minimising the risk of some injuries as you will be physically fitter
  • Obesity in mid-life increases the risk of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease by 60 per cent, exercising can help prevent this. (Cambridge Study in the Lancet Neurology)

What type and how much exercise?

This is dependant on the individual and factors such as fitness, age and other health issues need to be considered. Before embarking on any rigorous fitness regime it's always advisable to consult your doctor, however as a basic most studies recommend moderate exercise such as walking done frequently. In terms of moderate exercise this is recommended 4 to 5 times a week with 30 minute sessions, if you are able to then three 20 minute bursts of vigorous exercise are recommended.

You don't have to do this all at once, with the moderate sessions you can break these into 2 sessions of 15 minute walks or whatever fits your routine best. There are also many ways to achieve being active that doesn't involve taking time out of your day to go to the gym, for instance you can do fifteen minutes housework in the morning and then a short walk in the afternoon. The following day can be some gardening followed by walking around a shopping centre. Keeping a diary to keep on top of your weekly routine and fit in all your exercise will also help.

In the later stages of dementia it is advisable to encourage the person to move about from room to room and do small activities that will keep them and their brain active. Try and get them moving as often as possible as this will help maintain muscle strength, good balance and joint flexibility. If the person is at a stage where they are confined to a bed due to their illness, it would be advisable to seek advice from a physio or an occupational therapist. With the advice from a professional a plan can be put in place for gentle exercises, that can help with keeping muscles and joints healthy.

Finally

Overall leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia. Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health and may improve the quality of life for people in all stages of the condition. It is therefore important to incorporate exercise in their daily routine where possible, this will help both in the long and short term.

If you'd like to discuss Alzheimer's with a member of our team or find out more about our home care services, don't hesitate to contact us today.