What is Dementia?

People who are affected by dementia understandably have many questions about diagnosing the condition, how it will affect the individual, effective treatments available and what effect it will have on their quality of life. As part of Dementia Awareness Week, we will investigate some of these questions and suggest how people with dementia can lead a productive and satisfying life for many years after diagnosis.

People who are affected by dementia understandably have many questions about diagnosing the condition, how it will affect the individual, effective treatments available and what effect it will have on their quality of life. As part of Dementia Awareness Week which has been postponed this year, we will investigate some of these questions and suggest how people with dementia can lead a productive and satisfying life for many years after diagnosis.

Researchers are still examining how dementia develops. What we do know is that the symptoms of dementia are caused by damage or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. It is most common in people who are over 65, but it can occur in younger people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. At New Directions we work with a wide range of people with disabilities and autism who could like anyone else develop this complex syndrome.

There is no known cure for dementia, however it is suggested that a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of developing the condition. As indicators of dementia seem to come and go, an early diagnosis is key to slowing down its progression and to begin planning. We understand the importance of person-centred planning for anyone who we support who develops dementia to help them to live their life with meaning and dignity.

Diagnosing Dementia

There are various types of dementia. It is an umbrella term which several conditions fall under such as Vascular Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia and Fronto Temporal Dementia. The symptoms of dementia vary from person to person and are rarely hereditary. Dementia is diagnosed through studying the individual’s medical history, a physical examination, lab tests, analysing behaviours and recording changes in thinking and day to day function. Two common scans for dementia and what is causing it are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomographic (CT). This is a process which we help the people we support through at New Directions as part of their care plan.

As a team our support staff are trained to recognise early symptoms of dementia, such as subtle changes in short-term memory, difficulty finding the right words, apathy, changes in mood, slower train of thought, difficulty in managing daily tasks or following storylines, confusion, a failing sense of direction, repetition or struggling to adapt to change. We are also prepared for the developments of the condition as they occur and progress to end of life. This may include refusing to eat or spitting food out, sleeplessness, hallucinations, inability to communicate pain and in the latter stages of the condition lack of mobility, falls and choking on food.

How Do We Support People With Dementia?

At New Directions we provide dementia support to all our tenants, residents, and customers when they need it most. We understand that if a person’s surroundings are suitable, they will be happier, less likely to feel frustrated and angry and their behaviour will reflect this. We gather a personal account for every individual which we use to plan their care. This care plan assists our support staff to know people better and use it to work with them.

We are proud to be associated with Rugby Dementia Support as one of the Mayoral Charities together in 2019/20. This small voluntary group provide help for people with dementia and those who care for them. They have provided a list of valuable online resources with more information.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has a global action plan that sets out its steps to achieve their vision of a world where dementia is prevented and people with dementia and the people who care for them get the care and support they need. We agree with WHO that increasing awareness of dementia, reducing the risks of getting it, research and innovation in treatment, care and support will lead to more people affected by dementia living the rewarding and fulfilling life that they deserve.