Understanding dementia

Understanding Dementia – what is it?

When people hear the word dementia, it is easy to jump to conclusions about what it is and what happens. However people don’t always know what dementia actually is, so we have put together this guide to help you with understanding dementia and how to find extra resources of information.

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 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 all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s. 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.

Be prepared and early diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis early can help in some cases where there are drugs that can delay the progression of the disease.   Also contacting organisations such as Alzheimers Society, Dementia UK, Carers UK will help you understand how to cope with elderly parents with Dementia at all stages.  They provide practical guides, information on how to look after your parents at home as well as practical support groups both patients and carers.`In particular, Dementia UK has published a very informative booklet on support for everyone in the family about coping with dementia. Also, check out the NHS site which also has lots of useful information.

Understanding the situation

It’s the small things that can throw you off balance, such as an elderly parent forgetting who you are, walking around in the middle of the night, losing their temper for no reason or losing interest in something that they have always been passionate about.   It can be very frustrating and challenging.   Taking time to better understand how to that person is feeling can help in this situation and how to provide the best support.

Everything starts to change for the person but their life shouldn’t be determined just be their condition.  There are many other factors aside from the symptoms of dementia that play a huge role in shaping someone’s experience.  These include the relationships the person has, their environment and the support they receive.

Click here for a checklist of ideas for coping with looking after someone with dementia.

Additional Resources for Understanding Dementia

Unforgettable.org is an amazing site for anyone with a relative who has dementia.  As well as a wide range of products and services to help your parent at home, the site has excellent advice and information. Well worth a look, as well is  Dementia Challengers which has links to other useful sites.