Caring for someone with dementia

Dementia is a complex syndrome that is not fully understood and caring for someone with dementia, whether you are a family member, or a professional carer, is not an easy task. In this guide to caring for someone with dementia, we take you through a number of frequently asked questions, which, we hope, will help you understand dementia better and help as you care for your loved one or client.

If you need assistance with caring for someone with dementia, then we can help you find a trustworthy and compassionate private self-employed carer; contact Helpd today on 0118 449 2373.

What is dementia?

 

 

It is estimated that there are over 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. It is expected that this figure will rise to 1 million people by 2025 which means it’s becoming ever more important to know and understand what dementia is. According to the NHS, Dementia is a group of related symptoms that is associated with an ongoing decline of brain function. It commonly affects the following:

 

  • Memory
  • Thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Language
  • Perception
  • Movement
  • Judgement
  • Emotional control

 

 

It is common for a person who is suffering from dementia to become apathetic or disinterested in activities such as socialising, and many may not be able to control their emotions and lose their ability to empathise. It is not unusual for a dementia sufferer to hallucinate and as time goes on – maintaining independence may also become a problem.

Not considered a natural part of ageing, dementia is not a disease in its own right, but several diseases that affect the brain. Typically, it is the result of a loss of nerve cells, which progressively gets worse. Each person with dementia will experience the syndrome differently, which is because the cells that die off will do so in the different parts of the brain, at different times for different people. Many of the diseases that cause dementia are terminal and there is currently no cure.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is the term used when brain damage from impaired blood flow to your brain causes problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory and other thought processes. Common causes of vascular dementia include strokes. However, having an increased risk of heart disease and stroke due to diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol can raise your risk of vascular dementia. As with all types of dementia, vascular dementia is a progressive condition and while there may be ways to slow it down – there is currently, no cure.

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s and dementia, though similar, are classed differently. Dementia is not a disease, but a collection of symptoms that cause cognitive problems such as memory loss and language issues. While Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain, by disrupting the nerve cells in the brain and how they work and communicate with each other; eventually causing them to die. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which causes memory loss, problems with communication, reasoning and orientation. As the condition progresses, a sufferer will likely need more day-to-day care.

What causes dementia?

Dementia is generally caused by the nerve cells in the brain dying off over time. As dementia is not a disease, but a syndrome, also known as a collection of symptoms, there are several different conditions that fall under it. These include:

 

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Mixed dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia

 

How many types of dementia are there?

There are several different types of dementia; the most common are as follows:

Alzheimer’s disease – this is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s dementia is caused by abnormal protein structures known as ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles; that build up in the brain and affects the internal structure of the brain and disrupts the chemical connections between the brain cells. Eventually, this leads to nerve cells dying off, which affect cognitive function.

Vascular dementia – commonly caused by a stroke or a series of small strokes, this type of dementia is when the oxygen supply in the brain is reduced because of the narrowing of the blockage of blood vessels, which leads to brain cells becoming damaged or die off. Symptoms include difficulties with problem-solving, planning, bouts of confusion and having trouble concentrating.

Dementia with Lewy bodies – with this type of dementia, abnormal structures inside the brain cells, called Lewy bodies, develop, which eventually kills off brain cells. Dementia with Lewy bodies is related to Parkinson’s disease and can affect movement, alertness and cause hallucinations. In the early stages, typically, the memory is not as affected as it is with other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.

Frontotemporal dementia– this is where the front and side parts of the brain, known as the frontal and temporal lobes, are damaged by proteins that form inside the brain’s cells, eventually killing them off. Generally, this can affect changes in personality or behaviour and some people have difficulties with speech and forgetting the meanings of words.

Mixed dementia – this is when someone has more than one type of dementia; for example, having both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

How does dementia kill?

Dementia is a complex syndrome and it is not necessarily the condition itself that leads to death. In late-stage dementia, round the clock care is normally required as the sufferer is frail and may have lost many physical abilities, such as bowel and bladder control or swallowing. Many of those with dementia die from infections, such as pneumonia, or through dehydration, malnutrition, heart attacks or falls. Some may pass away through complications from the loss of brain function. According to the ONS, dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK, making up 12.7% of all deaths registered in the UK in 2017.

What is dementia care?

Dementia care is when someone who is suffering from dementia requires help with daily tasks, such as personal care and housekeeping. There are usually two types of care to choose from – home care and residential care:

 

  • Home care is when someone will either visit the dementia sufferer in their home at a set time or live in their home and help them with day-to-day care needs
  • Residential care means moving them into a care home or a nursing home

 

How to care for someone with dementia?

The best way to care for someone with dementia is to take a person-centred approach. This means focusing on the needs of the individual and taking into account their preferences and values. If you are caring for a loved one, whether that’s your partner, relative or parent, you can ask to have a carer’s assessment, which may help to you balance your caring responsibilities with your other commitments. A carer’s assessment might recommend the following:

 

 

If you need help with dementia care, or you think that your loved one will benefit from live-in care, then contact Helpd. We connect self-employed carers with clients who are looking for a carer. Our carers liaise directly with you, and because they are independent, they are free to offer bespoke, person-centred care.

When should someone with dementia go into a care home?

When you have dementia, going into a care home is not inevitable, many dementia suffers can stay in the comfort of their home with live-in care. This type of care means that a carer lives in the home of their client and helps them with the following:

 

  • Personal care – bathing, shaving, getting dressed
  • Housekeeping – cleaning, shopping and maybe even helping to look after pets
  • Assisting with eating and drinking
  • Help with attending appointments
  • Medication prompting
  • Assisting with paperwork

 

There is not a definitive answer as to when someone with dementia should go into a care home as it depends on their individual needs. For some people with dementia, moving into a care home can be traumatic, however, there are times when their needs are more than their current carer can give, and full-time residential or nursing care is the right choice for their safety and wellbeing.

How much does dementia care cost?

How much dementia care costs, will depend on the needs of the dementia sufferer. If your loved one needs visiting or domiciliary care, the average cost is around £18.93 per hour and the average cost of live-in care is over £125 a day; if you have acute or complex needs you could be paying more.

Care in a nursing home or care home can be more expensive, depending on your needs. Typically, a residential care home costs in the region of  £27,000-£40,000 a year, while a nursing home will be around £35,000-£55,000 a year.

How to talk to someone with dementia?

According to Alzheimer’s UK, the best way to talk to someone with dementia is:

 

  • Make sure there are no distractions such as the TV or radio
  • Get their full attention before you start
  • Make sure it’s somewhere that is quiet and well lit
  • Make eye contact and sit close to them, while not being in their personal space
  • Be relaxed and open
  • Think beforehand about what you are going to talk about
  • Speak clearly and a little more slowly than usual
  • Use short and simple language
  • Do not speak to them as you would to a young child
  • Laugh together, if possible, about mistakes and misunderstandings
  • Include them in the conversation if there are others with you. It can help dementia suffers keep a sense of identity.

 

If you need help with caring for someone with dementia, then contact Helpd today on 0118 449 2373. We can connect you with dependable and trustworthy carers, who see their clients for who they really are and not what condition they have.