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Knowledge Bank

We are all about empowering you and your staff to help people with Dementia by giving you the information you need.

This page provides you with some basic information about Dementia to help you understand more about Dementia and it's effect on people's lives.

Click on the headings below to find out more.

What is Dementia?

The word ‘dementia’ is used to describe the signs and symptoms of a group of degenerative neurological diseases. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

Individuals may have increasing difficulty in being able to work, undertake personal and daily activities, maintain social relationships and live independently.

These signs and symptoms are associated with a decline in cognitive skills and can include:

  • memory loss
  • problems being able to think logically and reason
  • difficulties with language skills
  • problems with attention and concentration
  • difficulties making judgements
  • difficulties problem solving
  • disorientation to time, place or person
  • changes in usual behaviour and responses

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. “What is the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia?”

A. The word dementia is what is called an ‘umbrella term’. It describes the signs and symptoms of a variety of different diseases. The most common cause or type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease.

Q. “Is dementia caused by age?”

A. NO. None of the diseases we associate with dementia are a natural part of the ageing process. However the longer we live, the more at risk we are of developing dementia.

Q. “Are there things we can do to prevent getting dementia?”

A. Research is showing us that the relationship between our brain and our heart is incredibly significant in relation to dementia. Basically the healthier our heart – the healthier our brain will be. If we lead a healthy lifestyle this may help prevent us having strokes or vascular disease which could lead to vascular dementia. However we do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s Disease and other causes of dementia so there is no definitive guidance as to how we might prevent developing these diseases.

Q. “Does the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ really apply in keeping the brain working?”

A. YES. The more we use our brains the better! Do things you enjoy doing. Also do some things you have never done before as this will help your brain to lay down new pathways of knowledge. Learn a new language – that will really get your brain working!

Q. “For people with a family history of Alzheimer’s, is there any early screening that can be done?”

A. Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Diagnosing dementia is vital, it allows people to plan for the future, access treatments and support. It’s possible that screening people for dementia could lead to more diagnosis, but there are several questions to answer first.

Screening for any disease is not without controversy; dementia is no exception. The age at which routine screening for early signs of dementia takes place poses challenges. We do not currently have an effective treatment to alter the course of Alzheimer’s, meaning pre-symptomatic diagnosis will be of little benefit to patients. In future, as new treatments are developed, this could change.

A screening programme could boost research efforts. Identifying people with the very early signs of dementia could help improve clinical research; ensuring people who stand to benefit most are included in drugs trials. These ideal groups of people could see treatment development accelerated.

The ongoing research into improving diagnosis, such our own important work on the development of biomarker blood tests, could improve our ability to detect dementia to make screening more accurate. With more research we can better understand how accurate and beneficial screening for dementia might be, and the likelihood of a screening programme producing falsely positive or negative results.”

Q. “I call my Mother every morning and tell her what day it is. Should I stop?”

A. This leads us to ask another question…… why do you do this. If you feel that it is beneficial to help orientate her that is great, particularly if there is something special or important happening on the day. However your mum may not remember what day it is and may not feel it is important for her to know. She may actually feel more confused or anxious if she thinks it is a different day or her calendar is ‘telling her’ something different. What she will gain a lot of pleasure from is hearing your voice and having a pleasant interaction with you. Perhaps you could link something more meaningful to the sharing of what day it is. For example, you could share with her what you are doing today “ …I do this every Monday” or “I can’t wait until tomorrow, Saturday, I’m going to…..”, or “I’m popping to the bakers today – they do fresh …… every Friday – do you want me to pick up any for you?”

People and Dementia

Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.

This is why it is so important to think about the PERSON first and then the disease. We can all help a person to live well with dementia if we have empathy for them and their family and knowledge of the different diseases and processes associated with dementia and the impact they may have.

Most importantly we need to know the person well – their likes and dislikes, their usual ways of responding to situations and events, important roles they have, their routines and preferences and life experiences.

If we focus on the person – have a person centred approach - we can find and maintain the essence of the person throughout their journey with dementia.

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