Living with Dementia
Many of us are living for longer thanks to advances in public health and medical science, but much of society is unprepared for this change. Outdated attitudes towards ageing and the negative impact of an ageing population are holding many people and services back. Ageing is still viewed as a burden, and later life as a time of decline, with age discrimination all too frequent within day to day life.
We believe that having a positive view of ageing will help us make the most of our own experiences of it too. We are working to shift how society and our community thinks, feels and acts about ageing and because we know that there are huge differences in how people experience later life, we are working towards delivering unique packages of care and support to individuals and groups.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia is not a single disease; it’s an overall term — (like heart disease) — that covers a wide range of specific medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behaviour and feelings can be affected.
The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally.
Types of Dementia
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs because of microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain, is the second most common cause of dementia.
Disorders grouped under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They can also affect behaviour, feelings and relationships.
Signs of Dementia
Signs of dementia can vary greatly. Examples include:
· Problems with short-term memory
· Keeping track of a purse or wallet
· Forgetting to pay bills
· Issues with planning, preparing and remember to eat meals
· Forgetting appointments
· Travelling to unfamiliar areas and getting lost
· Mood/personality changes
· Difficulty concentrating
· Finding it hard to follow a conversation or find the right word for things
Many conditions are progressive, which means that the signs of dementia start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. Seeing a doctor can help determine the cause.
Diagnosis of Dementia
There is no one test to determine if someone has dementia. Doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia based on a careful medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and the characteristic changes in thinking, day-to-day function and behaviour associated with each type.
Early onset dementia is on the rise, but unfortunately it often goes undiagnosed for a long time. This can the support someone receives. If you believe you or a loved one has early onset dementia, Parkinson’s disease or any other age related condition, please speak to us. We will be happy to help even if you are still awaiting diagnosis.
Dementia help and support
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with dementia, you are not alone. There are many different organisations which can offer encouragement, guidance and practical support in dealing with the ageing process. These include:
• Alzheimer’s Association Helpline: 0800 272 3900
• Dementia Scotland Helpline: 0808 808 3000
• TIDE (Support for Carers): 0151 237 2669
• Find out more about our support services here
Speak to a member of the Braid Health and Wellbeing team and they will be able to give you contact details of support organisations in the local community as well as developing a personal support plan if you are looking for support for yourself or a loved one.