More than 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia. A figure that’s projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040, at a current rate of one diagnosis every three minutes.
These stark statistics represent the stories of families across the country who have to deal with this cruel disease of the brain day in, day out.
As the condition is progressive, gradually getting worse over time, the needs of those with dementia are both complex and ever-changing. Which makes caring for someone with dementia a difficult and demanding challenge.
But when you understand the process and experience of dementia, it is possible to help a loved one live a more fulfilled life. With the right dementia care in place, these thousands of people can be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Here we explore the different types of dementia, how to live better with dementia and how specialist dementia care can make a world of difference.
How Many Types of Dementia Are There?
It’s useful when understanding the different types of dementia to appreciate that the disease can affect anyone. Regardless of gender, ethnic group, educational or professional background, and to a lesser extent, age, it doesn’t differentiate.
Depending on which type they have, people will display different symptoms and progress at different rates so it’s crucial to understand which type of dementia your loved one has:
- The most common form of dementia, making up between 50-75% of all cases.
- Early signs include memory loss as the disease first affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus.
- The symptoms can be difficult to spot and are often confused with more general signs of aging.
- As the disease progresses, memory problems will be joined by a wider range of challenges such as thinking, reasoning, language and perception.
- The second most common type of dementia, affecting around 150,000 people in the UK.
- Caused by damage to blood vessels which reduce blood supply to the brain.
- Around 20% of those who have a stroke develop vascular dementia.
- Symptoms centre on problems with planning, making decisions and problem-solving.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Makes up around 10-15% of cases of dementia.
- Known as DLB, it shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- People with DLB can experience hallucinations, problems with attention and issues with movement, making them more susceptible to falls.
- One of the less common forms of dementia, also known as Pick’s disease.
- Often diagnosed between the ages of 45-65.
- Symptoms include changes in personality, behaviour and language, with memory less affected.
Read more about the different types of dementia along with support and treatment options in our article Helping You Understand Dementia.
How different individuals experience living with dementia
How dementia affects your loved one will depend on a multitude of factors but it’s worth looking at some of the more common potential symptoms. The following list isn’t exhaustive and not everyone with dementia will experience them all.
Symptoms of dementia in the elderly can include:
- Forget names, faces and places, or where they’re left an important item, such as their keys or phone.
- Display mood swings and be unusually irritable or anxious.
- Repeat the same questions or stories.
- Easily become confused about time, plans and appointments.
- Lose interest in previously loved hobbies.
- Get lost in familiar places, whether on foot or while driving.
- Find it increasingly difficult to focus on a task or activity.
- Avoid changes of routine or learning how to use new equipment.
- Show difficulty in completing everyday tasks.
- Struggle to solve problems.
- Find themselves walking around with no set purpose.
- Become paranoid or have hallucinations.
- Show poor judgement when crossing roads.
As new symptoms may appear at any time, it’s important to think ahead about how you might deal with these should they arise.
You can find answers to more of your questions about dementia here.
How to Make Living with Dementia Easier
There is no cure for any form of dementia and research is generally underfunded compared to other diseases. So it’s natural to feel rather helpless if a loved one receives a difficult diagnosis.
But there are plenty of positive steps to take to help them live better with dementia. A practical, proactive approach can make all the difference to their enjoyment of life, especially if together you’ve chosen for them to stay living at home.
Create a dementia-friendly home
The single most important consideration is to ensure their home is safe and promotes independence. Feeling secure in their environment is crucial for their sense of wellbeing and your own peace of mind.
Discuss together what changes you could make and then introduce them gradually to reduce the chance of overwhelm or confusion.
Between you, assess whether any of these ideas could be helpful for their particular needs:
- Adapting interior design to incorporate signage with pictures and words, coloured labels to identify everyday items and instructions signs to help with regular tasks.
- Installing security tech such as alarms and sensors to alert you to any falls or unusual activity.
- Fitting useful aids such as a walk-in shower, handrails, motion detector lighting etc.
- Providing them with gadgets to empower and boost independence such as a smartphone or tablet to help them keep track of their life, connect with loved ones and view photos.
- Establishing an accessible garden with raised beds, sensory planting and seating areas.
Incorporate sensory activities
Living with dementia can be a lonely place so it’s important to take steps to encourage stimulation of mind, body and social life.
This can cover everything from crosswords to crochet and singing to seated exercises.
Outside of the home, there are opportunities to attend dementia cafes for that essential social contact, along with local concerts, church services, walking groups or a simple game of dominoes with friends in a community hall.
Ensure the activity is something your loved one enjoys and takes place in the company of like-minded people. They may want to try something new or feel more secure sticking with a favourite hobby.
Each activity will do its job of boosting confidence, maintaining motivation and keeping channels of communication open.
Celebrate their life story
One essential activity for anyone living with dementia is to work to preserve memories. While more recent reminisces tend to fade first, more distant memories last longer but may still become hazy.
Along with these precious stories and recollections, memory work can also centre on treasured items and photographs to build a visual picture of your loved one’s lifetime.
All can be used to create a life story: photo albums, framed picture collages, family trees, old newspaper cuttings of important family moments, a favourite blanket, special jewellery, audio recordings of tales of ancestors past. They all fit together to create an invaluable resource for both your loved one and everyone who cares for them.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A vital part of living better with dementia is to focus on diet and exercise. A positive attitude here can make all the difference to your loved one’s sense of wellbeing.
You may find their appetite and eating habits begin to alter. When once they’d have happily tucked into a huge Sunday roast, maybe they now prefer finger foods and more frequent smaller meals throughout the day.
They may need some support on making healthy food choices or even just eating the calories they need. Getting them involved in food prep can help with this, making interesting and varied meals, as can sitting down together to make those meals more of a social occasion.
When it comes to exercise, they may be keen to continue with their usual routine or could need some gentle coercion. Leaving the car at home and walking to shops, parks and cafes is a simple first step. They could also do some seated exercises or join a dementia-friendly group to ramp up the fun factor.
Another important lifestyle factor is the importance of a good night’s sleep. Dementia may disrupt sleep patterns, leaving them exhausted in the day and wide awake at night, as well as disorientated if they’re struggling to understand time.
A couple of simple tweaks can help here: a dementia-friendly clock can help to identify the right time to go to bed with reinforcement from black-out blinds in bedrooms.
And, like all of us, a relaxing activity away from screens and avoiding caffeine before bed, can all help to soothe and unwind.
How to get dementia help at home
When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, your main concern will be how to ensure they receive the right care.
Dementia care at home is one option to consider. They’ll be able to stay in the familiar surroundings of home with minimal upheaval while keeping the existing sense of security it provides. And they’ll maintain a crucial element of independence which will work wonders for their mental wellbeing.
A specialist dementia carer can visit them at regular, expected times to provide one-to-one support and companionship. And when that carer is consistent, they’ll be able to rely on a friendly, familiar face who appreciates and understands their unique needs.
At Holm Care for example, dementia care is tailored to your loved one’s specific needs. Whether they’ll benefit most from a couple of hours of company, an overnight carer to complement care provided by the family, or a dedicated and qualified live-in dementia specialist, you’ll find the perfect fit.
You can trust a dementia carer to provide a reliable, friendly service that covers:
- Personal care
- Maintaining safety
- Helping with mobility
- Spending time on fun activities
- Preparing and assisting with meals
- Providing medication reminders
A professional one-to-one carer will provide a high level of personalised care that promotes independence, builds confidence, respects dignity and supports your family.
With a dementia carer in place, you can rest assured that your loved one will be encouraged to live well with their condition and lead a fulfilled life.
Discover more about Holm’s specialist dementia care services.