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Dementia and Alzheimers
What is dementia and who does it affect?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a disease that affects the brain. Some common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal Dementia but there are over 100 different types. Symptoms will vary depending on the diagnosis and the individual and dementia look different in everyone.
Although memory loss is the symptom most associated with dementia other common symptoms include difficulty communicating, difficulty regulating emotions, changes in vision and changes in personality.
It’s not just older adults who develop dementia and although it’s uncommon to develop dementia before 65 it’s estimated there are around 40,000 cases of early onset dementia in the UK.
As mentioned above dementia can affect an individual in lots of different ways but it also has a massive impact on their friends and family. It can be hard to watch someone you love change before your eyes and it’s important we also provide support to families as well as the individual.
Dementia diagnoses are set to double by 2050 so it’s important we put in dementia friendly infrastructures now to support those living with dementia in the future.
How to make your unit more inclusive
Dementia can pose some challenges but we can make our unit spaces more inclusive for dementia individuals. It’s all about communicating with someone and finding out what they struggle with and where there strengths lie.
Physical changes you could make might include:
Removing trip hazards especially if the individual is prone to falls- most common trip hazards should already have been removed for the safety of all members but items such as rugs and even mats can often pose an extra risk to individuals with dementia. If they are being kept they should be secured to the ground.
- Including more signage in your meeting place- e.g. clearly marking toilets with a combination of pictures and text
- Ensuring your meeting place has good lighting while reducing shadows, glare and reflections
- Using contrasting colours to make important objects stand out- but avoid patterns and glitter and these can be confusing
- Purchasing dementia clocks to help individuals with dementia keep on time
- A quiet space to retreat to if noise is disorientating them
Other ideas for making your unit more inclusive are:
- Never say ‘dementia sufferer’ or ‘suffering from dementia’- individuals with dementia can live fulfilling and enriched lives and these terms imply they’re someone to feel sorry for
- Asking the individual to arrive early so you can spend extra time going through the plan for the evening
- Providing them with a clear simple plan of the evening- a combination of text and images may be most effective
- Everyone being more patient and understanding that people with dementia may need a little more time to process information and extra prompts
- Ask them what they feel comfortable doing and work to their strengths
Unit Meeting Activities
Take Action, Pack 7- Drawing Distractions
Become a Dementia Friend. These are information sessions that are delivered by Alzheimer’s Society Volunteers. It’s a social action movement that works to make communities more dementia friendly. You can sign up to these sessions online or email us to book an online or in person session.
What to do if someone is worrying about their memory
The first thing to do is report your symptoms to your GP who will be able to give you the best advice.
Memory problems can often have other causes such as stress or low mood so taking steps to improve these can help improve your memory.
Speak to someone you trust in your unit to make sure you are supported within the unit.