We hear the word ‘dementia’ and automatically make assumptions. However, dementia brings with it a range of symptoms and difficulties, and our natural assumptions can lead us to misunderstand.

At our care homes in North Devon and Somerset, we are experts in providing dementia care. These are 10 things that we think that everyone, including loved ones of those with dementia, should be aware of:

  1. Dementia is not just one condition

Dementia is not a single condition. There are different types. Some examples include Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in the UK. It affects around 500,000 people in the UK and accounts for two-thirds of all dementia cases.

  1. It’s not just about memory loss

Memory loss is one common symptom of dementia. However, it’s not the only one. You can find out more about the other common symptoms of dementia in our article What are the symptoms of dementia?’

Symptoms can vary from one individual to another. Partly this may be due to the type of dementia. It is also because how an individual is affected depends specifically on which area of the brain has been affected.  This can make dementia very hard to spot and diagnose in the early stages.

Symptoms can and do include memory loss, but it is more complex. Other symptoms can include mood changes, memory changes, concentration difficulties and language and communication problems.

  1. Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing

Dementia does not affect every elderly person. It is not a ‘normal’ part of ageing. However, age is a ‘risk factor’. Indeed, 9% of those diagnosed with dementia have what is described as early-onset dementia. This can occur when someone is in their forties or fifties, or even as young as their thirties.

  1. There are ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia

Whilst dementia cannot necessarily be prevented, there are some lifestyle factors which increase your risk of developing it. Therefore, by taking steps to change your lifestyle you can reduce your risk of developing it.

The NHS advice is that you should do the following to reduce your risk of dementia:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep active and exercise regularly
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Stop smoking
  • Take steps to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range

You can find out more about effective chair exercises for the elderly and those with mobility problems in our article ‘Top 10 most effective chair exercises for the elderly.’

  1. Dangerous and risk-taking behaviour can be a symptom

It is not unusual to become worried and frustrated about a loved one’s dangerous or increased risk-taking behaviour when they have dementia. However, what many family members don’t realise is that this can be part of the condition.

Depending on the area of the brain affected, the individual may have impaired ability to reason, behave inappropriately (including sexually), or become aggressive.

Whilst these symptoms can be incredibly difficult to tolerate or manage, it is important to remember that they are a symptom in the same way as forgetting to lock their front door is.

However, if you are struggling with such behaviours then it is vital that you get support and help. Your GP can be an excellent first port of call. It may also be time to consider moving your loved one to a specialist dementia care home.

  1. Dementia is not actually a disease or illness

Dementia, as a term, is not actually a disease itself. The term applies to a set of common symptoms which can include memory loss, cognitive difficulties, confusion or personality changes.

  1. Diagnosis is important

Because of fact 6 above, it is therefore important that you seek to understand which disease or condition is behind your loved one’s dementia symptoms. This is because it can help you to understand how it will progress and what symptoms are likely.

Knowing what the diagnosis is can also enable you and the sufferer to get the support and treatment needed. It can help you to make plans, together if possible.

  1. Dementia doesn’t just affect those in developed countries

There is a common myth which holds that dementia is a ‘western’ disease. This is only believed to be because of the lower life expectancy in developing countries. However, it is understood that in the next few decades dementia will become a much more notable disease globally as the population ages in developing countries too.

  1. The number of new cases of dementia in the UK is falling

With better treatment and particularly changes to lifestyle factors, we are now beginning to see a reduction in the number of new cases of dementia.

Prof Albert Hofman, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, has reported: “Looking over three decades, the incidence rate of dementia in Europe and North America seems to be declining by around 15% per decade.”

It is thought this is largely due to reductions in smoking, particularly in men. However, the experts warn that rising obesity levels may cause this to swing back once again.

  1. You can make a difference

When the symptoms of dementia are advanced, it can feel like loved ones can’t make a difference. However, we know that care and support matter immensely, especially from loved ones.

There are other ways you can help too. Dementia research projects need volunteers to help with their studies. If you are recently diagnosed, or have a loved one who has the capacity to consent to be part of the research, then do consider signing up to help.

Caring for someone with dementia can be complex and sometimes overwhelming. Understanding more about the condition can help. Getting support is invaluable.

At Eastleigh Care Homes we have specialist dementia care homes in North Devon. We provide the support and care needed for those with dementia which in turn supports their loved ones.