Frequently Asked Questions
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders. It is a collection of symptoms that can cause long term and an often-gradual decrease in the ability to think, remember and carry out simple everyday tasks.
Dementia consists of a variety of symptoms, including:
- Communication issues – individuals may find it difficult to find words to describe things
- Memory Loss – Individuals’ short-term memory would be affected, such as forgetting where they have placed items or forgetting what they did the previous day.
- Changes in mood and behaviour – such as depression, anger, inappropriate behaviour, language and even in some cases hallucinations
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by gradual damage or changes within the brain. It is the loss or impairment of brain nerve cells. According to scientific research these changes usually happen because of a build-up of what is known as abnormal proteins in the brain, which are different in each type of dementia.
Can dementia be prevented?
There is no way to prevent dementia altogether, but there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing it. For example, studies have indicated that there is a link between cardiovascular health and dementia. A healthy cardiovascular system relies on blood vessels that can circulate oxygen and vital nutrients efficiently throughout the body. Any damage to blood vessels anywhere in the body can cause blood-vessel blockages in the brain which depriving brain cells of essential elements. Damaged blood vessels in the brain can lead to vascular dementia, a condition that often coexists with Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia. By protecting the heart we in turn protect the brain.
Taking simple steps that promote overall good health can have an impact on preventing some of the factors that lead to dementia:
• Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
• Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption
• Stay socially engaged and stay mentally active
• Eat a healthy balanced diet
What treatment is available for dementia?
There’s no real cure for the different forms of dementia but there are some medications available that may help relieve some of the symptoms and, in some people, slow down the progression of the condition.
Click here for a summary of some of the drug treatments available
In addition to drug therapy there are various non-drug options. These include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This is a type of psychotherapy to counter depression and anxiety.
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy
To keep the mind active with themed activity sessions that challenge the brain. this can help people with memory, problem solving skills and retaining language skills.
Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy
This might involve working with someone such as an occupational therapist to try and regain a lost skill or to develop new compensating skills.
Singing, Dancing, Art
Activities that keep you physically, mentally, and socially engaged can boost confidence and cognitive skills and lower anxiety.
This might be sessions with a mental health counsellor or meetings with a support group. This can help an individual to cope with the emotional challenges of a dementia diagnosis.
What are the different stages of dementia?
There are five stages of progressive dementia they are part of the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) used by professionals to measure the progression of the disease.
Dementia Stage 1 (CDR-0)
At this stage, the person living with dementia will show no signs of impairment, and is entirely able to look after themselves. Their memory is pretty good and their judgement remains normal. They should be able to lead an independent life but it’s important to keep an eye on them in case you notice any changes.
Dementia Stage 2 (CDR-0.5)
People at this stage of the process may struggle slightly with their memory, and you may notice some inconsistencies. They may also have issues solving challenging problems and have trouble with timing. Work and social situations may start to become awkward for them, as they begin to develop memory slips. They are, however, still capable of managing their own personal care.
Dementia Stage 3 (CDR-1)
At this point in the dementia journey short-term memory is likely to be becoming worse. Disorientation is more common and their maybe trouble with navigation, especially when outside the home. Supervision will be required as there maybe lapses in personal hygiene or some forgetfulness to do important household chores, pay bills, attend appointments etc.
Dementia Stage 4 (CDR-2)
At this point the person with dementia is likely to need help with the majority of tasks. This will include washing them, accompany them when they need to leave the house, aid them with chores and managing their finances. Short-term memory is also likely to be severely impacted, retaining new information will prove challenging
Dementia Stage 5 (CDR-3)
This is the most severe stage of dementia – the person concerned will need help from a full-time care worker or be in a residential care home. They will not be able to function without assistance and memory loss will be extreme.
Is dementia hereditary?
Many of us will have a relative living with dementia – but this does not mean we will develop it too. In most cases the genes passed down from our parents are likely to have minimal impact on our risk of dementia. In most cases our likelihood of developing dementia will depend on our age and lifestyle.
However, in some rare cases, a person may inherit a faulty gene that could cause a specific form of the disease. There are some rare forms of early-onset Alzheimer’s and fronto-temporal dementia that are caused by faulty genes and could therefore run in some families. If you feel that you may be at risk then it is best to talk to your GP about your concerns.
Dementia care: what are the costs?
One of the biggest problems facing families where a loved one is diagnosed with dementia is the question of finances. As the condition progresses the individual will need increasing amounts of care and the cost of this can rapidly escalate. That’s why it’s important to establish a plan of action as quickly as possible following diagnosis.
Talk to a legal expert
- Consult a solicitor and arrange for a trusted family member to be given Power of Attorney, which will allow them to make financial decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
- Make a note of all the assets your relative owns.
- Trace all bank and savings accounts, and ascertain if there are any bonds, insurance policies or other investments that could be put towards care funding.
- Discuss with family members how much financial or practical assistance each person can offer.
You may need to factor in the cost of making adaptations to the residence of the person with dementia that will allow them to stay within their own home for as long as possible, these might include; as a stair lift, safety and security modifications to the home and other equipment to make life easier for your loved one. You will also need to factor in money for personal care products and in all likelihood these costs will increase over time as the condition progresses. Eventually, the person with the condition may need specialist residential care.
Talk to your local authority
Upon request they will provide a free assessment of the needs of the person with dementia and will draw up a care plan. This will determine how much practical and financial help might be available from state funding. If your loved one receives financial assistance, you do not have to spend this sum on local authority services and are free to arrange private care if you prefer. The NHS has a Continuing Healthcare scheme, which can provide financial assistance for your loved one, but it is a complex system to navigate and you have to be prepared to fight your case. It is worth persevering, though, as the financial assistance can be helpful for families who are struggling with the cost of elderly care.