World Alzheimer's Day
The 21st of September is World Alzheimer’s Day which exists to raise global awareness and challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementias. Over 55 million people around the world are affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, with Alzheimer’s Disease International suggesting that this number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050. Staggeringly, every 3 seconds someone in the world develops dementia.
Here at Living Made Easy, as many of the team are Occupational Therapists, or have known someone in their lives with dementia, we know how important it is to gain a better understanding of the condition as a society and to raise awareness around it – so, that’s why every member of our team is a Dementia Friend. You can read more about the Dementia Friend initiative by clicking here.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia – What’s the difference?
Dementia is a group of symptoms which can be caused by several different diseases that damage the brain. Dementia symptoms are progressive and get worse over time. The main symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Confusion and needing help to carry out daily tasks
- Problems with language and understanding conversation
- A change in behaviour
There are over 200 subtypes of dementia, however most people with dementia have one of the four main types. Some people can also have mixed dementia where they show symptoms of more than one type. The four main types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. Dementia usually affects people over the age of 65 and currently there are around 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia. However, around 1 in 20 people with dementia are younger than 65 and have something which is referred to as young-onset dementia. Currently, there are 42,000 people in the UK aged under 65 with dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s is an illness which physically damages the person’s brain, and this starts many years before symptoms start to show. For most people, the first signs of Alzheimer’s are problems with their memory, thinking, language or perception. Early symptoms are usually mild and don’t prevent the individual from doing independent activities. In most cases, Alzheimer’s disease starts in and around the part of the brain involved in memory, and eventually it causes so much damage to the brain that the person develops dementia. As the disease progresses it causes certain parts of the brain to become smaller, and it reduces the important chemicals that are needed to send messages around the brain.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are drugs that can help to temporarily slow down the progression of symptoms in some people.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease will present differently in each individual. However, some common early signs and symptoms might include:
Memory loss – forgetting recent conversations and events, repeatedly asking the same question, misplacing items, forgetting the names of places and objects.
Difficulty with concentration and organisation – struggling to follow a series of instructions or make decisions.
Problems with communication – difficulties in following a conversation or finding the right word when trying to explain something.
Spatial problems – misjudging distances, perceiving the edge of objects, misinterpreting reflections.
Mood changes and becoming less flexible – losing interest in things, becoming unusually frightened, irritable or anxious, more hesitant to try new things.
It’s very important that if someone has consistent problems with memory or they are displaying some of the signs above, that they are assessed by a healthcare professional to allow for an early diagnosis. Even though there is no cure for dementia, having a diagnosis as early as possible allows the person to access treatments, get advice and support and plan for the future.
Alzheimer’s disease not only affects the individual, but it also affects the lives of their families and loved ones. Although there is no cure for it there are certain steps that can be taken to help manage day-to-day life.
Medication – once diagnosed and the type of dementia is known, the individual can be prescribed medication to help slow down the symptoms or progression of the disease. They might also be prescribed medication for their mood, for example if they are feeling anxious or agitated.
Talking therapies – the Alzheimer’s Society recommends that talking therapies can be effective for people in the early to middle stages of dementia. These can be in person, over the phone or online, and include counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Talking therapies can also be helpful for a carer of someone with dementia.
Person-centred care – this involves tailoring a person's care to their interests, abilities, history and personality. It ensures a person with dementia can still take part in things they enjoy and is an effective way of managing behavioural and psychological symptoms. Family, carers and the person with dementia should always be involved in developing a care plan based on person-centred care.
There are products that may help with person-centred care such as reminiscence products and games. These can be things like a life story book, to assist the person with dementia to talk about memories from the past which tend to be stronger than recent memories. A throw and tell ball, which helps people with dementia talk about things they have done or remember things they like to do. There are also reminiscence packs which are multi-sensory and comprise of music, smell boxes, pictures and a DVD video centred around the theme of the pack, for example ‘at the seaside’.
Organisation aids and equipment for the home – there are range of equipment and technologies that can help with day-to-day living at home.
- The use of organisation aids such as medication alarms and alarm clocks can be helpful in keeping the individual independent and act as reminders for daily tasks.
- Item finders can be attached to small items like keys or remote controls.
- Personal alarms are helpful to alert family members or carers if the person with dementia is distressed or unwell. Some alarms also have GPS in them in case the individual is at risk of getting lost.
- Daily living aids such as shower stools, handrails and perching stools can help to combat balance problems.
- Assistive furniture such as profiling beds and riser recliner chairs can help the individual to stand on their own from a lying or seated position, if at the mid to later stages of dementia and they are having mobility issues.
The Alzheimer’s Society offer help and support to those with dementia and their families. They have a dementia support line and can put people in touch with local support groups or health services. For more information on Alzheimer’s and dementia, please visit their website.
We hope that you have found this article informative and helpful. If you wish to find out any more about the types of products mentioned in this article please click on the bold and underlined text, or take a look at some of the product categories listed below.
- Reminiscence products and games
- Scheduling apps and reminder services
- Medication alarms and reminders
- Item locators
- Movement alarms and monitors
- Perching Stools
- Wall Mounted Rails
- Shower and Bath Boards, Seats and Stools
- Riser Recliner Chairs
- Profiling Beds
If you are looking for more information on Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, please take a look at the links below.
- The Alzheimer’s Society
- NHS – Alzheimer’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Alzheimer’s Research UK
- Alzheimer’s Disease International
- Dementia Friends