dementia meeting

Talking about Dementia 

There aren’t many weeks where the subject of Dementia isn’t in the media spot light.  As a society we are not afraid to highlight this frightening progressive condition.  In the past any memory impairment was classified as someone suffering from Senile Dementia.  It was often a families little secret, as the shame and embarrassment of being judged by others were at the for front of people’s minds. Interestingly, it was also perceived as an inevitable aspect of growing old. It wasn’t recognised that a younger adult could fall victim either.  Dementia was not considered as a disease so consequently there was no medical studies or investigations, no treatment and no support within the community. Thank goodness for our modern day medical advances.  Today, Dementia is a subject that is not brushed under the carpet but discussed openly and honestly.  There is much research, educating, diagnostic investigations, treatment and therapies and vital support services. The different dementias including the most common, Alzheimer’s disease undergo continual research to look for causes, diagnostic techniques, possible cures, treatments and the all-important prospect of prevention. Currently, there are approximately 750,000 people with dementia in the UK and by 2021, there will be over 940,000 people living with dementia.

Let’s get back to Basics and have the facts.

What is Dementia?   It describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes.  Dementia is progressive, meaning that symptoms will gradually get worse.

How many types of Dementia are there?

Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe the fact that the brain has been affected by certain diseases or conditions. Here are the most common types.

ALZHEIMERS DISEASE...  The most common cause of dementia.  This is due to the chemistry and structure of the brain changes leading to the death of brain cells.

VASCULAR DEMENTIA...  When the oxygen supply to the brain fails and this causes brain cells to die. The symptoms may occur either suddenly. Following a stroke or a series of small strokes over time.

Dementia with Lewy bodies...  When tiny spherical structures develop inside nerve cells. This give rise degeneration of brain tissue

Fronto-temporal dementia...  When damage is focused in the front part of the brain. Personality and behaviour are a feature initially more than memory.

RARER CAUSES OF DEMENTIA. There are many diseases that mean there is an increased risk of dementia. Multiple sclerosis. Motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease

What are the symptoms?

 Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. The different types of dementia tend to affect people differently, especially in the early stages.  The right support that’s received enabling the individual to maintain their quality of life, will have a big impact on how well they are able to live with the illness.  A person with dementia will have cognitive symptoms (problems with with thinking or memory) they may also have problems with the following...

Day to Day Memory. Particularly recalling events that happened recently.

Concentrating, Planning or Organising, Difficulties making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks e.g. cooking a meal.  

Language impairment - Difficulty following a conversation or finding the right words for something.

Visuospatial skills – Problems judging distances

Orientation- Losing track of the day, date, and year or becoming muddled about where you are.

A person may have changes in mood and temperament becoming irritable, frustrated, anxious , withdrawn, unusually tearful or perhaps seeing things that are not there (Hallucinations ) or believe things that are not true (Delusions)  Behaving out of character is a common symptom . This could be repetitive questioning, pacing, agitation or restlessness. This can be challenging for the people around them.  In the later stages of dementia, physical symptoms such as muscle weakness, weight loss / gain, changes in sleep pattern and appetite are common.  The cruel truth is that this condition robs people of their previous identity.  For loved ones this is a devastating blow.  It is obvious that all these changes mean that the necessary information, and support should be easily accessible and ongoing.     

How is Dementia Treated?

Ongoing research into developing new medications, vaccines and other treatments to slow or halt the progress of the disease means one day there will be a proven preventative measure or cure.   At the present time, there are prescribed drugs to temporarily relieve memory problems and improve alertness, level of interest and daily living. It may help manage challenging behaviour as well. If someone has vascular dementia they also may be offered medication to reduce blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, regulate diabetes or stabilize heart problems.  Medications also may be appropriate for treating associated depression, anxiety or sleep problems.  Some medications have side effects so careful monitoring is vital.  

It is a well-known fact that keeping socially and mentally active in later life may lower the risk of dementia occurring.  Being with friends, having a hobby, doing puzzles and quizzes all contribute to keeping the mind active.

When it comes to needing care and support at home, you can trust Home Instead to meet all your requirements and needs. We are specialists in Dementia and keep ourselves up to date with any relevant information that will benefit our clients.  Home Instead caregivers complete a training programme designed by National and International renowned dementia and Alzheimer’s experts. This means our caregivers are provided with the latest Alzheimer education and home care techniques. We pride ourselves on being trusted professionals, which is vital for the clients who rely on our support.  Our Care Givers are trained to -    

Manage challenging behaviour

Provide mind stimulating activities

Maintain a safe environment

Create social interaction

Supervise daily activities

Provide nutritious meals

Home Instead CAREGivers will ensure that their client is well cared for in mind and body. We understand the best place for any one suffering memory loss is in familiar surroundings and consequently the services we provide are a valuable and trusted source for clients and their families. We will soon be hosting family dementia workshops which have been found to be hugely successful and of real benefit. We work with leading experts in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and have developed a city and guilds accredited training programme. When a member of our team has successfully completed this course they will be fully equipped to be able to educate and share their knowledge with family members or any member of community. These workshops are free and are an informative way to tackle managing challenging behaviour or any other issues related to dementia.

As the Community Service Representative for Home Instead senior care in East Herts and Uttlesford, part of my job is to see what services are available to our clients in the community. I personally visit and stay throughout the sessions in order to gain an insight into the benefits for our clients. I also feel it’s important to meet and get know group leaders and other members of staff. There are two groups I would particularly like to highlight. 

It is widely acknowledged by experts that singing in groups can help support people who are facing a range of challenges arising from living with dementia. Being active in a singing group, vocally, physically, and feeling valued as a member of a group make people feel good. Creative activities are known to stimulate positive hormones and the physical act of singing can reflect the principles of speech therapy.   Singing also stimulates the here and now form of communication that is not dependent on memory. There is evidence to show that the social aspect of singing in groups is beneficial for social awareness. As often there is singing in groups, taking it in turns, making choices on songs and cooperating with others so social skills are all reinforced.  The Alzheimer’s society run special singing groups called Singing for the Brain. It uses singing to bring people closer together.  I have visited the Baptist church, Bishops Stortford group led by Victoria Port.  When I arrived there was a number of people enjoying a cup of coffee and a biscuit. There was a servery open and a couple of volunteers in charge of refreshments. I introduced myself to Victoria and she told me about the group. It was clear that she was passionate about singing and being able to provide the singing therapy to all that needs it.  You don’t need to be able to sing in tune to participate and if you don’t want to sing yourself there are other activities you can do. There are percussion musical instruments that are handed round. Everyone has their name on a badge and the session started with a welcome song. Although there were word sheets, everyone seemed to know the words.  The theme of the day was Ireland as it was Saint Patrick s day. The majority of the songs were Irish like oh Danny Boy  Again the songs seemed familiar to people.  Not only was the session great fun and very friendly, it was clear that everyone enjoyed themselves.  Even people with advanced dementia were smiling and chatting.  I have to say it was really inspirational and I could see the real benefits of the Singing for the brain philosophy. This therapy is often mentioned on the National News, so is recognised as being one of the best forms of therapy with people with memory impairment.  If anybody wishes to attend this group they will need to contact there local Alzheimer’s Society office as places are limited.

The other group that I am most impressed by is the C.S.T Today group that is held every Wednesday from 10 until 3pm.There is the opportunity to stay all day and have a hot meal lunch time or you can stay half a day if you choose. The group’s venue is at The New Apton Centre, Bishop Stortford and every Thursday in the Hunt Room, St Pauls Church, Hoddesdon.  Debbie Baker is the group leader and can be contacted on 07904198309 for further details. There are free taster sessions available.  CST is a fun way to improve memory, build relationships, maximise potential, stimulate executive functioning, language and improve concentration. It is a very friendly organisation whose main purpose is to enable people to live well and maintain independence whilst giving their carers a break. There is also the capability to hold these sessions in a care home.

    Debbie Baker is a trained cognitive stimulation therapist and experienced dementia support coordinator.  I have had the pleasure to visit this group on a number of occasions. This group is another example of excellent therapy in a relaxed, friendly environment.  Tea, coffee and biscuits is always a good way to start the day. Memory games and reminiscing play a big part in the therapy. Gentle exercises, encouragement to do what you can as well as dancing, is all good fun.  There is singing, role playing, arts and crafts, bingo, puzzles and quizzes and much more. The time goes quickly as it’s never boring or dull. Debbie has managed to get her sessions perfectly structured and   despite the worrying health issues which brings people through the door, this group has so much to offer. Debbie and her two volunteers know there participants very well and chat away about their life at home and family.   This group is structured and well led but the best thing of all is the positive relationships between staff and participants.  I would strongly encourage anybody with mild to moderate dementia to contact Debbie and take advantage of a free taster session.    

Lastly I would like to tell everyone that there is The Alzheimer show coming to London Olympia on 10th &11th June 2016. This is going to be informative and educational with a host of experts involved as well as health professionals to give people the knowledge they need.  Information can be found on   I will be going along as it is in my interest to find out as much as I can and be informed of any new advances that could benefit our clients.  Although dementia cannot be cured there is so much we can do so our seniors are able to have a good quality of life.  Home instead senior care will continue to do everything we can to enrich the lives for those who choose us. Because to us, it's personal.

For more information about Home Instead  please visit our website or contact us on 01279 721143.