WHAT IS DEMENTIA?

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one.

The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.

MIGHT THE CHANGES BE DEMENTIA?

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing.

It is true that the risk of developing dementia is generally higher the older we get, but it is also true that the majority of older people do not get dementia.

Carers often look back to small changes in their relative or friend’s behaviour which happened several years before any diagnosis of dementia occurred and which they assumed were normal signs of ageing.

There may be reasons other than dementia and the changes might be reversible. The sooner you take your concerns to the doctor the quicker the person you support can receive advice and treatment.

HOW DO I PREVENT SYMPTOMS WORSENING?

– Keeping healthy will support the immune system.

– Eating well and exercise will protect against major illnesses such as heart conditions and diabetes. Remaining social will protect against loneliness.

– Eating a balanced diet with low salt, foods rich in unsaturated fats such as fish or olive oil, plenty of fruit and vegetables, vitamin E and antioxidants will help slow cognitive (brain) decline.

– Keep physically active, what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

– Cardiovascular exercise particularly helps maintain the front part of your brain where the decision making and reasoning happens. Cardiovascular is anything that raises your heart rate such as brisk walking or dancing. Gentle, weight-bearing exercise can improve strength and balance so reduce the risk of falls.

– Try Tai Chi or aqua-aerobics. Try incorporating movement into everyday life, such as light housework or gardening.

– Keep mentally active.

– People living with dementia should be encouraged to keep up with the hobbies and activities they enjoy and to keep socially involved.

– As the dementia progresses, activities may need to be adapted for the person’s abilities. For example, crosswords and games which require planning or activities which require new learning may become difficult. Conversations that use opinions and long-term memories or singing together may still be pleasurable and stimulating.

– Keep stress levels low, excessive stress can reduce memory capacity it can also interfere with sleep, leading to people being more irritable and less inclined to be social or active.

– Physical activity and getting outdoors is known to reduce stress. Using enjoyable mental activities can be a distraction from stress.

HOW DO I MANAGE CHANGES IN MY RELATIONSHIPS?

Dementia is a progressive condition meaning that the person you care for will change over time. It is normal for those around to feel a range of emotions, such as anger, grief, guilt and resentment, all of which can affect relationships.

Enjoy the time you spend together.  There are many ways that you can remain connected with the person so that your relationship, although different, still brings you both happiness and comfort.

Explore what you can both still do together.  You could try reminiscing by looking at holiday photographs, listening to music, going for walks, going on local coach trips or watching a favourite film.

Try to make your outings fun, safe and have a meaning such as a trip down memory lane. If the first time does not go as planned, try again but stay nearer to home and choose a different time of day. While out, be clear about your plans.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

KingsCare runs a monthly Carers support group alongside an activity group for the person they care for in a separate room in the same building.

This gives the Carer the opportunity to speak freely about any concerns they may have.

Local knowledgeable speakers attend regularly offering advice, support and guidance.

The meetings are held 2pm-3:30pm on the FIRST Thursday of the month at  Kingsteignton Community Centre, Rydon Road, TQ12 3LP.

Places are limited so please call Jackie on 01626 357090 to reserve your place.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 5th May.

If you would like more information or would like to request a one-to-one meeting with Jackie please contact her on

01626 357090 or jackie.milan@nhs.net

KingsCare also has a Dementia wellbeing worker, David Garland, who is able to work with people with a Dementia diagnosis in the Newton Abbot area.

David is able to visit people at home and provide interventions with supporting the wellbeing of the person with Dementia, and also signposting to other services.

Please contact David on 01626 357090 or david.garland1@nhs.net