Dementia is something that affects families all over the UK, and the number is expected to rise over the next few years. By 2025, more than a million people will have been diagnosed with the condition, which can have a considerable impact on the lives of the individuals and their families.
But would you know how to best support your loved ones and ensure they get the elderly care they need? The different types of dementia care available and the warning signs that you should look out for are rarely known by people until they are diagnosed. Many of our care homes have specialist dementia staff that can offer support in all areas. But diagnosing the condition as early as possible can make all the difference, giving you time to discuss care options and make any preparations needed.
So what do you need to know about dementia?
Nearly half of people with dementia go undiagnosed
The symptoms of dementia can often be mistaken for other conditions, especially in young people because it is considered to be something that only affects the elderly. The term dementia describes a wide range of symptoms that steadily worsen over time, but early intervention can ensure people get the dementia care they need and prepare for the future.
As it is caused by damage to the brain, it's not possible to undo any injury caused by dementia. However, there are a number of treatments that can slow down or even prevent some types of damage to the brain in the future.
Dementia and Alzheimer's are not the same
Alzheimer's disease and dementia are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different things. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, but this can be the result of a series of strokes or a disease - like Alzheimer's - affecting the brain and causing damage.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia but receiving a dementia diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean you have Alzheimer's disease.
It's more than just memory loss
People often think dementia is just about memory loss, which can lead to problems about what is 'just old age' and what may be more serious. The symptoms a person experiences depends on what part of the brain is affected by the condition but there are a few that are common.
- Day-to-day memory loss
- Problems concentrating or planning
- Difficulty keeping up with conversations or finding the right word
- Problems judging distances
- Becoming confused about the day/date or about where they are
- Sudden mood changes
Sharing symptoms doesn't mean you have dementia
Experiencing one or more of the above symptoms doesn't mean you have dementia but it's best to consult a doctor as it may be a sign of something else. Depression, chest and urinary tract infections, vitamin and thyroid deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause similar problems.
You're not alone
It can be difficult discussing this sort of topic with a loved one, especially if they have been experiencing changes in mood or dislike visiting the doctor. There are lots of charities like the Alzheimer's Society that can help you talk to your relative about dementia and encourage them to see their GP.
Reaching out to these support networks can make all the difference should you get a dementia diagnosis as they can advise you on the best type of care and treatment to get.
Younger people can be diagnosed with dementia
Although most people with dementia are older (over 65), more than 40,000 individuals have an early-onset version of the condition. This is usually caused by Alzheimer's disease but is often misdiagnosed as something else like mental health problems because of their age.
Dementia doesn't mean your life is over
Dementia care has come a long way in the past few years and there are a variety of treatment options available for those who want support. This involves medication to slow symptoms down, lifestyle changes and help or advice for family members.
People living with the condition can live active and independent lives for a long time but knowing the support and dementia care available to you can make the journey much easier.