Affecting more than 900,000 people in the UK alone, the number of people with some form of dementia is rising each year, according to a report commissioned by the Alzheimer's Society. Four hundred thousand of these may not even know they have dementia. It can affect people of any age but is most common in people 65 years or above. In most cases, it is incurable and tends to be progressive. Static forms of dementia do exist and are usually the result of an isolated event that resulted in some form of brain injury. A minority of symptoms might also be partly or fully reversible. Continue reading our family guide to dementia below to understand the subject in more detail.
What is dementia?
Dementia is not a single disease but a term applied to a collection of symptoms and forms of behaviour associated with memory loss, reduced spans of attention and more complex cognitive disorders. These might extend to things like a deterioration in a person's ability to deal with everyday problems or to communicate effectively with others. It is a chronic, progressive condition affecting the brain and how it works.
Families and friends will normally be the first to notice the early signs of dementia in someone close to them, and these signs might include increasing forgetfulness, anxiousness and other changes in mood, personality or behaviour. To make a definitive diagnosis, medical professionals will usually perform a brain scan because many of these same symptoms are shared by other unrelated conditions and may therefore be misleading.
There are various different forms of dementia, of which Alzheimer's Disease is by far the most prevalent. In almost all cases, however, common symptoms of the later stages include depression, agitation and confusion, coupled with a tendency towards self neglect.
There is no doubt that dementia can be a distressing condition, both for the individual concerned and for their family and friends. However, it is important to bear in mind the following:
- There are treatments that can slow and lessen its debilitative effects
- There are well established dementia family support groups
- There are many effective care aids that can make life substantially easier for everyone concerned.
Making life easier
Because dementia can cover such a wide array of different symptoms, it is important to get a swift, clear and proper diagnosis. This will determine the kind of treatments, information and support that will be of most value.
An early diagnosis is also important because, in many cases, the earlier the condition is detected, the more can be done to slow or prevent the development of certain symptoms. It also ensures that whoever is experiencing the condition has more time to make informed decisions about his or her care and about other important arrangements concerning family and finances.
Finally, a proper diagnosis may also find that the condition isn't dementia at all, but rather any one of a large number of treatable illnesses or complaints that can sometimes give rise to similar symptoms.
For those that are diagnosed with dementia, there are medicines that can help with many of the symptoms. There are also support groups, both national and local. These can help those with dementia and their families by sharing ideas, information and contacts and by lessening any feelings of depression and isolation.
Importance of dementia family support
Anyone living with dementia faces various significant challenges. A close support network of family and friends can help with some of these, particularly through communication, which can help to reduce the effects of anxiety and confusion. As the people who know them best, family members will also tend to be more alert to slight changes in behaviour – changes that might indicate other concerns such as discomfort, worry or feeling poorly.
Different people respond in different ways to the onset of dementia. For some, the main challenges will relate to daily household tasks such as eating and drinking. For others, the concerns might relate more to personal safety or fighting the loss of memory. Fortunately, families can now choose from a wide range of effective aids that can help with these and many other aspects of the condition.
Dementia can affect almost every aspect of a person's life and can make routine tasks extremely challenging. The average age of onset means it can often coincide with the development of arthritis and other disorders that reduce mobility. For that reason, people with dementia could potentially benefit from an enormous range of different care products, from mobility aids to devices that assist with dressing and comfort.
To help, we've listed below examples of the kinds of products that can help with some of the most commonly affected aspects of everyday living.
- Eating and drinking aids
- Continence care
- Household aids
- Memory development aids
- Wander control systems.
Eating and drinking aids
Dementia can limit a person's ability to eat and drink independently, but there are a range of products that enable people to retain greater control. Examples include stable, colourful, shatterproof crockery such as the Wade Dignity range, together with non spill feeding cups, clothing protectors and many other aids.
People with more developed dementia may experience incontinence. We have a large range of incontinence aids to provide dementia support to families and individuals. Examples include washable bed pads, discreet incontinence pants and a range of related washing and hygiene aids. You can also contact us for product advice.
A failing memory can be extremely frustrating, but a broad collection of household aids and reminders can provide support. Examples include photo button telephones that don't require the use of a numeric keypad, and general aids such as:
- Wireless object locators
- Safety plugs that prevent baths and basins from overflowing
- Day and night clocks that indicate whether it is day or night
- Memory aid pendants that issue verbal reminders at specific times of the day.
Memory development aids
The loss of memory function can be resisted to a considerable extent by keeping the mind active and engaged with other people. For this reason, people with dementia require family support and therapists. Other medical professionals have developed a range of stimulating games and activities that help to keep people happier, more alert and more independent. Examples include:
- Reminiscence aids
- Group activity games
- Arts and crafts products.
For those with memory loss, automatic pill dispensers and tablet organisers can also help to ensure that important medication is taken at the right times.
Wander control systems
One of the most dangerous aspects of dementia is the possibility of wandering and leaving a safe environment without family members being aware of it. To safeguard against this, manufacturers have developed a range of wander control systems that provide exceptional dementia support for families, including:
- Fall and motion detectors
- CCTV systems
- Bed sensor mats
- Speaking pagers
- Personal security alarms
Specialist publications that provide dementia family support
Since family members are usually the people most directly affected when a relative is living with dementia, publishers have produced an array of specialist reference books that explain how to help improve the quality of life for the person living with dementia and their loved ones alike.
Dementia support for families does exist, and you may find the following organisations and websites useful as sources of advice and information.
- NHS Choices
- Age UK (formerly Age Concern)
- Alzheimer's Research UK
- Alzheimer's Society
- AT Dementia
- Care Quality Commission
- Carers UK
- Dementia Carers
- The Frontotemporal Dementia Support Group
- Parkinson's UK
Dementia family support at Complete Care Shop
At Complete Care Shop, we care about individuals living with dementia. We also care about families looking for support. We hope this guide has served you well, providing as much information as you need. However, if there is anything else you would like to know, you can head to our useful help and advice section for more guidance.
If you’d like to speak to a member of our team to discuss any of our living aids, don’t hesitate to contact us.