The Department of Health estimate that, in England approximately 676,000 people are living with dementia (Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 (2015)), and the numbers are set to double over the next 30 years.
The term dementia covers a range of symptoms and behaviours which are linked to a degeneration of the brain tissue and death of brain cells through disease. The main forms are Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia. There are many other forms of dementia, however, and some other conditions and diseases may also lead to dementia, for example Huntingdon’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease) is less well known but can affect people in their 40s and 50s.
Dementia is commonly understood to affect memory, but can also impair behaviour and emotional stability, affect language and understanding, and have physical impact on other senses such as sight and taste. Some people can become aggressive or overly affectionate, or they can withdraw from friends and family, and regress into the past – perceiving carers or family members as strangers (because they don’t remember meeting them) or mistaking them for other people such as deceased parents or spouses.
Although the condition is currently irreversible, many people are able to stay at home and undertake everyday tasks for some time after a diagnosis. Indeed, for some, attempting to move people from their home environment may increase anxiety. Home Improvement Agencies are well placed to help people stay at home for as long as possible, and adaptations to the home can reduce risk and anxiety for the person affected and their carers and families.
Foundations has produced a useful list of possible adaptations for people with dementia, which can be accessed here.
Alzheimer's Society have published a booklet that describes ways to create or adapt the home environment so that it remains a safe and familiar place. Download Making your home dementia friendly
Other services can also be helpful in keeping people well at home such as the innovative Care and Repair Leeds Reminiscence Activity Library, which provides materials to stimulate memory and communication and helps with emotional health, but also allows a home health check to be undertaken to identify other needs in the home.
Dementia does still have a stigma attached to it, although that is now changing. However, special care should be taken when dealing with people with dementia, and Dementia Friends training can help Caseworkers, Technical Officers and contractors who come into contact with people with dementia understand some of the challenges that they may face. Further information can be found on the Dementia Friends website.
Does your agency deliver services aimed at helping people with dementia to live independently at home? We would love to hear from you. Drop Angela a line firstname.lastname@example.org