Alzheimer’s Society is the leading care and research charity for people affected by all forms of dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia affects everyone differently and can cause a wide range of symptoms. These can include problems with memory, thinking, concentration and language. People may become confused or struggle with how they perceive things. Dementia can also cause changes in mood or emotions and effect how someone behaves.
Dementia is progressive, which means that they symptoms get worse over time. However, many people with dementia lead active and fulfilling lives for many years.
There are many different types of dementia. The most common are Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia, which are sometimes combined (called mixed dementia). Less common are dementia with Lewy Bodies and frontotemporal dementia.
Various factors increase the risk of someone developing dementia. Ageing, genes, health and lifestyle all play a part.
If you are worried about your memory, contact your GP. The earlier you seek help, the sooner you can get information, advice and support.
Living well with dementia
If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia, there are lots of things you can do that will help you to live as well as possible. To find services in your area for information and support, start by contacting your GP, social services department, Alzheimer’s Society or Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
To help you cope with memory problems you could:
Try using a large diary, and perhaps keeping it next to a
calendar clock. Also try keeping important items, such as keys or glasses, together in the same place.
Try to make your home safer. Remove things that are easy to trip over and install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. You could also get automatic timers for plugs, lights and heating.
Try to stay active and social: it can help you retain skills and memory, as well as improve your self-esteem, sleep and wellbeing. Having dementia doesn’t mean you should feel unwell or depressed. It’s important to try and stay healthy. Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet can help.
Arrange regular checkups with your GP, as well as regular dental, eye and hearing checks. Get the annual flu vaccine and see the doctor promptly if you feel unwell.
Support for carers
Caring for someone with dementia can be very stressful and at times upsetting, but also rewarding.
Carers often go through a wide range of emotions, including loss, guilt and anger. They may also have positive feelings, such as satisfaction from being able to support the person with dementia.
As a carer you have a right to a carer’s assessment and to receive support to help you to maintain your caring role. Sources of support for carers include family and friends, health professionals, social services, carers’ support groups and organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society.
It’s important to look after your own health and wellbeing. Try to eat a balanced diet, and to get enough sleep and exercise. Make sure you have some time to yourself.
There are practical tips that can make caring for someone with dementia a little easier. For example, encourage the person to keep doing what they can to retain their independence. When communicating, make eye contact, listen carefully, be aware of your body language and speak clearly.
Talk to a doctor – ideally a specialist – about behaviour that is challenging or causing either of you distress or worry. There are things that can be done to help.
For more information about dementia, contact the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 (Monday-Wednesday, 9am-8pm; Thursday & Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday & Sunday, 10am-4pm)