Dementia Care Starts with Better Understanding by Action Dementia UK Branch

So what is the issue?


There are currently estimated to be around 850,000 people in the UK living with a diagnosis of dementia, and 163,000 new cases of dementia occurring in England and Wales each year. Based on current projections, one in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia and by 2021 there will be over 1 million people living with dementia in the UK. As well as the huge personal cost, dementia costs the UK economy 23 billion a year, more than cancer and heart disease combined. Caring for each person with dementia has an economic impact of 27,647 per year. By contrast, for people with cancer, the figure is a mere 5,999, stroke 4,770 and heart disease 3,455 per year (‘Dementia 2010’ Alzheimer’s Research Trust).

Different sorts of dementia and memory problems are becoming more common, often these are not diagnosed and treated. People experiencing dementia tend to become isolated and lonely, and will have difficulties in using local services and facilities. ‘Dementia 2013: The hidden voice of loneliness’ is the Alzheimer’s Society’s annual report examining the quality of life for people with dementia; the report highlights that nearly two-thirds of people with dementia surveyed (63%) said that they felt anxious or depressed. With more than two-thirds of people with dementia living in the community and a significant proportion living on their own, there is a need to build dementia friendly communities.

A national drive to increase public awareness about dementia and public support for people with dementia is in place, with the rationale for creating dementia friendly communities coming from the voices and experiences of people with and affected by dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society’s report in September 2013, ‘Building dementia-friendly communities: A priority for everyone’, explores new evidence from people with dementia, looking at their experiences of living in their community and describes a dementia friendly community as ‘one in which people with dementia are empowered to have high aspirations and feel confident, knowing they can contribute and participate in activities that are meaningful to them’. The report also highlights the need for care homes to ensure that residents with dementia maintain relationships and interests with the broader community; evidence suggests that 80% of older people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems (‘Low expectations: attitudes on choice, care and community for people with dementia in care homes’ February 2013).

In Leeds, estimates suggest that there are currently 8,500 people living with dementia with this figure due to increase to over 12, 000 by 2030 – an increase of 40% in 15 years).

It is therefore crucial that as a community, the stigma of dementia is challenged and that people with dementia are supported to continue to live well. This must start with YOU. By simply having more of an understanding about dementia and how it affects individuals, we can really begin to see the individual beyond their diagnosis, and therefore support and influence the experience of someone living with dementia.

What is dementia?

Imagine that the brain is a collection of fairy lights, each representing a memory, a skill, or a function of the brain (speech, movement, coordination, decision making). Now imagine that dementia is causing some of those lights to flicker, dim or switch off completely. Alzheimer’s Society 2015

In a nutshell, dementia is simply caused by diseases of the brain resulting in degeneration of the brain (death of cells). It can affect the way that an individual thinks, behaves, and the way that they carry out activities of daily living.

So simple tasks such dressing, tying shoes laces, making a cup of tea can be difficult tasks for an individual living with dementia.

There are lots of types of dementia that are caused by the changes happening in the brain, with different types of dementia showing slightly different symptoms. Most common types include Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies).

People experience dementia in different ways because we are all unique individuals, however symptoms experienced may depend on the type of dementia, the physical changes on the brain, the personality of the individual, their environment and the support that an individual receives. There are some commonly experienced symptoms (but even with these symptoms not everyone will experience all of them; these include changes in memory, changes in behavior and changes in thoughts and feelings (these symptoms will be explored in more detail in the next Blog).

Supported, people with dementia can live well with dementia. All that is required is understanding about the condition, and looking beyond the diagnosis.

Please do not underestimate how important your knowledge and understanding might be. I will leave you with a final thought, always remember;

The PERSON with dementia NOT the person with DEMENTIA.


Visit our website today at Action Dementia for additional information about our Education and Consulting Services

If I have helped one person have a better understanding of dementia than they did today then I will be extremely happy with the outcome of this blog.

Written by Alpa Raja, Dementia Care Consultant and Trainer, Action Dementia.

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