Friday, 24 May 2013

Dementia Awareness Week - Talking Changes Everything

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19th May 2013 marked the beginning of Dementia Awareness Week, this year focussing on the campaign: Worrying Changes Nothing. Talking Changes Everything. With around 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia the majority of us will be affected by dementia in one way or another, be it personally or a family member.

60% of people that have dementia symptoms have not been formally diagnosed with dementia; making this years' campaign regarding talking about dementia more important than ever. Alerting as many people as possible of the signs and symptoms of dementia will prove paramount in early recognition and access to appropriate services. There are numerous branches of dementia which a person could have but the most common is Alzheimer's Dementia which usually initially presents with memory loss symptoms which is caused by structural and chemical changes in the brain. Dementia is a progressive condition-symptoms get worse as time goes on; some of the early symptoms can include:

- Inability to remember things that have happened recently.

- Becoming agitated more easily.

- Difficulty with concentration, this can be in the form of holding a conversation-train of thought may be easily lost.

- Increased confusion.

- A sense of feeling withdrawn.

- A general difficulty in communicating.


If you notice these symptoms in yourself or in someone you know it is important to TALK ABOUT IT. If personally, raising any concerns you have about your memory with a GP is an essential first step as they can look into the cause of these problems. If you are having concerns about someone you know tread carefully, developing memory problems can be somewhat embarrassing but by all means don't avoid the conversation.  Any information and support can be obtained from the National Dementia Helpline (0300 222 1122) available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm.

As dementia progresses a person will require more help with their daily living such as washing, eating etc. the Alzheimer's Society provides many useful pages on advice for carers on these topics (http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents.php?categoryID=200343). Furthermore they provide information on legal and financial matters involved with being a full time carer, covering entitlements.  Another big change can be with regards to communication, conversations may take longer and test patience but it is important not to patronise, after all they are still the same person and think about how you would feel in that position. Using picture cards can help in situations such as with meal choices; it is easier to pick something by looking at them than having the difficulty of finding the words.

Change in perception can cause increased confusion to a person by dementia which can be improved with environmental alterations. For example what is actually a rug can be seen as a hole in the floor (causing the person to constantly walk around it) or a blue rug/carpet may be seen simply as a pool of water, again causing aversion. Changing these may enable them to feel more comfortable in their own home. Similarly loud patterns can appear as threats such as bugs and barbed wire. Stress minimisation can hugely influence mood control.

That's me all talked out about dementia today, join the campaign and #TalkDementia today.

Statistics from The Alzheimer's Society. Visit http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ for information and contacts.

Location: Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, UK

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