Dementia is one of the UK’s most common illnesses in those over 65 years old. Despite this, it is something we struggle to talk openly about.
In this article, Nathan Pilling, Dementia Services Manager at Help & Care explains what the NHS Dementia Pathway is – and why getting involved early can help both sufferer and their loved ones live a more fulfilling life.
You can learn more about Help & Care’s dementia service here, and how to get in touch. You can email or phone us. We will listen to you and advise the next best step. This may be arranging a further call or meeting to discuss your needs or signposting you to a relevant organisation.
So, what actually is Dementia?
Dementia is the umbrella term for Degenerative Diseases of the Brain. These are progressive diseases with no known cure. It is believed that the signs of dementia in the brain can be noticed as early as 20 years before a person is diagnosed.
What are the warning signs?
Short-term memory loss is the first and most recognisable sign. However, this must be happening daily.
Symptoms also depends on the type of Dementia you may have. Here are a few more signs to look out for:
- Behavioural changes
- Low mood
- Name recall
- Word Finding Difficulties
What do we mean by early intervention?
Across all areas of healthcare, early intervention can help in many ways, from curing an illness to slowing its progress, to helping people deal with their circumstances. With dementia, we know there is currently no cure, so we get people asking, why get a diagnosis of something that you can’t cure? Is ignorance bliss? While there are no known cures for dementia, there are occasions - particularly with Alzheimer’s Disease - where medication can be used to slow the progression.
Early intervention also enables you to get a diagnosis, and therefore access post-diagnostic support, which is so important. This is what we do at Help & Care, we have an amazing team that you can rely on to guide you through what is needed now, while also preparing you and your family for the future.
A dementia diagnosis can seem scary, how do we encourage people to not fear it?
We know dementia can be a heart-wrenching illness, however, the earlier we know about it, the more support we can provide.
The more you learn and know of the disease can allay many fears. There is still such a stigma around what people perceive will happen or the way a person will eventually behave. You hear mainly the bad which are very few and far between. Will they put me in a care home? Will they stop me driving? Will I start behaving inappropriately? Yes, there are cases where actions need to be taken to protect and care for a person but generally you can live well with dementia!
So, can someone actually live a fulfilled life with Dementia?
Short answer, it depends! In some cases, absolutely yes. Once diagnosed, you will be supported with both practical and emotional support.
My advice would be these three 3 simple things:
- Cognitive stimulation (see our article here on the benefits of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy)
- Adequate fluid intake
- Good nutrition
Just because you have been given a diagnosis of dementia, don’t let it stop you. I have a friend with dementia, he and his wife are able to give presentations on their story of their diagnosis and how they live their lives now.
So don’t stop doing the things you love, socialise and be who you are.
What should I do if I think I have Dementia?
We know this can be a difficult step, however we really encourage you to speak to your GP, they will assess you and refer you to the local Memory Assessment Service. A nurse will carry out some Cognitive tests, a scan of your brain may be required too. If you are then diagnosed by a consultant, the Post Diagnostic Support can start for you and your family.
What should I do if I think someone I know has Dementia?
Encourage the person to see their GP to move towards a diagnosis. If it is left undiagnosed, people are unable to support you in the right way. It will greatly benefit you in the long run to get support as early as possible, such as medication and once again, post diagnostic support. You can also show or read them this article – and give them hope that they can live well with dementia!
Anything else you’d like to add?
We received a recent piece of feedback, which I’d like to share:
Thank you for your call this morning and for the informative email. It is so comforting to know that someone is keeping an eye on Mum and that I have resources I can call on for advice and reassurance.
My friends here in are very envious of the support network in Dorset.
Find out more
This article is part of Help & Care’s “Living Better with Dementia” campaign, where we are sharing thoughts and advice to help others #LearnAboutDementia. Head to our social media or website News page for stories and more practical tips on how to #LiveWellWithDementia.