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Living With Dementia

Cheerful three-generation family sitting on couch enjoy time together

‘The Live-In Care Hub’ produced a report called ‘No Place Like Home’. In it they found that a diagnosis of Dementia can be devastating for the whole family with increased pressure on relationships, lifestyles and finances. The research showed that the top concerns were:
· 78% “I would end up resenting them or feeling angry.”
· 72% “We’d have to sell their home to fund a care home.”
· 70% “They might have to go into residential care.”
· 69% “My family won’t be able to afford good quality care.”
· 65% “It will divide our family or cause relationship problems.”
· 97% of people don’t want to go into a care home if they become ill or less able to cope.

The total number of people with Dementia in the UK is forecast to increase by 38% over the next 15 years. By 2037 the number of ‘carers’ will have to rise to 9 million to keep pace with the levels of frail and disabled people (Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia UK’ Report 2014).

Dementia is a blanket term to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders. There are many different types of Dementia and diseases that can cause it. Some common types are:

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease.
    · This is the most common form of Dementia in the UK.
    · It is caused by protein abnormalities causing ‘plaques’ that live between the dying cells and ‘tangles’ which live in the cells.
    · With Alzheimer’s the numbers of cells, nerve cells and connections decline causing the brain to actually shrink.
    · The first sign is usually memory loss of names of things and people or conversations and events.
    · Symptoms include confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar surroundings.

· Difficulty in decision making or planning.
· Problems with speech.
· Problems with dressing, washing or moving around.
· Personality changes: becoming suspicious, aggressive and inflexible.

  1. Vascular Dementia.
    · This is caused by lack of blood to the brain. Either developing as a result of a narrowing or blockage of small blood vessels in the brain or because of a sudden event such as a stroke or smaller TIAs (Transient Ischaemic Attacks).
    · It is reasonably common to have a combination of Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia.
    · Symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s although often also characterised by problems with attention and concentration.
    · If caught early it is possible to stop or slow the progression of Vascular Dementia.
  2. Dementia with Lewy Bodies.
    · Lewy bodies are small lumps of protein that develop inside the brain cells.
    · People with Dementia with Lewy Bodies can display any symptoms of other forms of Dementia but also can experience the following:
    · Stiff limbs and tremors similar to Parkinson’s Disease.
    · Hallucinations / visual disturbance.
    · Sleeplessness at night and sleepiness in the daytime.
    · Fainting, falls, unsteadiness.
    · Unpredictable changes from alertness to sleepiness to staring into space.
  3. Frontotemporal Dementia
    a. This is caused by proteins building up in the front and sides of the brain. This is one of the few forms of Dementia where there is a known genetic link.
    b. Dementia is most commonly diagnosed after 65 but this form is mostly diagnosed in people aged 45 -65.
    c. Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia include:
    · Personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating or apathy.
    · Language problems – speaking slowly, getting words in the wrong order, using the wrong words or making the wrong sounds when saying a word.
    · Becoming distracted, struggling with planning and organisation.
    · Memory problems, although unlike other forms, these only tend to occur in later stages.
    · Muscle weakness, bowel and bladder weakness and sometimes difficulty swallowing.

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