Having a family member diagnosed with dementia can be life changing. The future may seem unpredictable, but one thing is certain, your loved one will require support as their illness progresses. Here at Harley Street Care we are experts in dementia care. Based in London, we can provide your loved one with all the support they need to live life well in their own home.

Caring for dementia

At Harley Street Care, we are highly experienced in supporting all types of Dementia sufferers, through long-term carers and nurses with specialist training in this complex field. We understand that when managing Dementia, consistency of routine is everything. This is why we offer dependable support and a one-to-one relationship with a reliable and experienced carer, whose specialist focus is invaluable to the service that they provide.

Whether you may be in the early stages, or a loved one is more advanced, we encourage participation through activities and attending events. With an active interest in current news and developments, our carers and nurses adopt the latest ways to interact and reminisce, often using such techniques with photographs, music and games to stimulate memory.

Comfortable and familiar surroundings are a crucial element for the effective care of this condition, enabling sufferers the maximum level of stability. When a trusted relationship is formed with an experienced carer within your home, it reinforces a relaxed environment. As a result, our care team are carefully chosen for their ability to build the rapport that underpins this important connection.

A guide for dealing with dementia

Guide for dealing with dementia

To find out more about how we can help you call 0207 989 0990 or email us at info@harleystreetcare.com or contact us online here

Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia – Symptoms and Diagnosis

The term dementia is defined as a neurological disease, symptoms of which will often include loss of memory, problems with reasoning and planning, and personality changes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s develop an accumulation of protein in the brain creating ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’, which damage the connections between nerve cells. Alzheimer’s sufferers also have a deficiency of certain chemicals which serve to transmit signals around the brain, further reducing brain function.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that gets progressively worse with time, resulting in an ongoing decline in cognitive and physical ability. Early diagnosis is important from a treatment point of view. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, early diagnosis is also important because it enables the individual to make suitable arrangements for their ongoing care, and address any financial and legal matters.

Symptoms

Early-stage Symptoms

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty with routine/familiar tasks
  • Speech/language issues
  • Confusion/disorientation

Middle-stage symptoms

  • Longer term memory loss and forgetting basic personal information such as name or birthday
  • Personality and changes in behaviour such as paranoia or compulsive
  • Confusion surrounding dates/times
  • Bladder and bowel issues
  • Disturbed sleep patterns

Late-stage symptoms

  • Inability to perform daily activities without a high level of support and assistance
  • Difficulty with sitting, walking and, eventually, swallowing
  • Increased trouble communicating
  • Vulnerability to other illnesses or infections
  • Complete loss of awareness of people and environment

To find out more about how we can help you call 0207 989 0990 or email us at info@harleystreetcare.com or contact us online here

Diagnosis

Although there is no simple test for Alzheimer’s or a single cause, diagnosis can almost always be carried out using a range of medical examinations including blood tests, neurological and physical evaluations and a review of the patient’s medical history.

Diagnosis will usually begin with an assessment by a GP, who will take details of the symptoms exhibited, conduct some basic physical tests and also carry out blood and possibly urine tests. Based on their findings, they may then refer you to a specialist, who will likely be one of the following depending on age, symptoms and availability of the consultant;

  • General adult psychiatrist – specialising in in adult mental health issues
  • Old age psychiatrist – as above but specialising in treating those over 65
  • Geriatrician – specialising in physical and disabilities and illnesses in older people
  • Neurologist – specialising in the treatment of conditions relating to the brain and nervous system

The consultant will usually form part of a wider team which focusses on a particular area of speciality, and will include a number of doctors who are at different stages of training in that area.

The consultant to whom you are referred will not always be the person that you see for an assessment, but they are ultimately responsible for your case, and will take a suitably close overview, while also working closely with other healthcare professionals, such as social workers, occupational therapists, and advisors who specialise in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Once you have been referred to the consultant, they will carry out further tests, which will be more detailed than those carried out by your GP, and may include various types of brain scans, including CAT (computerised axial tomography), CT (computerised tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Alongside the physical tests, you will also be referred for some pre-diagnostic counselling, to help you understand the reasons for your referral and help prepare you for the possibility of a positive diagnosis.

In the event that you can’t be categorically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may be discharged back into the care of your GP for ongoing monitoring. The monitoring period will usually last between 6-12 months, and the GP will look for indications that your condition has significantly worsened over that timeframe.

Dos and Dont’s for caring with those with dementia

Communication

When an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia is being physical or verbally abusive, it’s important to remember that this is not a conscious decision or a rational state of being, but rather a symptom of their illness. These symptoms are often triggered by something or someone within their immediate surroundings that makes them feel uncomfortable or disorientated. It’s important to try and identify the root cause of their distress, and then attempt to reassure them that

  • Do speak in a calm and reassuring manner that will help to alleviate their distress.
  • Do make regular eye contact while you speak to them to ensure you have their attention.
  • Do try to establish what the trigger is for their emotional outburst. It may be something as trivial as a minor deviation from routine. Once you have established this, you can try and divert their attention to something else.
  • Don’t attempt to argue or apply logic to this situation. The outburst may well be entirely irrational and trying to talk them around can sometimes inflame an already emotional situation.
  • Don’t try to physically restrain them unless they are likely to cause harm to themselves or others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to give them space.
  • Don’t ignore what they say. Sometimes it may seem as though they are not making much sense, but they will often give away indications of what they are thinking or feeling, even if it’s not immediately apparent.
Confusion / disorientation

Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers will usually demonstrate signs of disorientation and confusion. These can often be the underlying cause of the physical outbursts mentioned above. This symptom is the result of progressively deteriorating cognitive function in the brain. As a result, the individual might not always recognise familiar people or places, or may become suspicious and distrusting of those around them.

  • Do try to focus on things which are familiar and reassuring to them. This could be something as simple as family photos, or a favourite chair or type of music.
  • Do engage with them if they want to discuss people or events from their past as though they were current, this is quite normal, and what seems like confused behaviour to you is actually their reality.
  • Do try to create simple routines which help to promote a stable environment and reduce anxiety. Keeping household items in the same place will help create a feeling of familiarity which is comforting.
  • Don’t move them from one place to another unless necessary. If possible it is preferable for family or friends to visit them in their regular surroundings. Visitors should kept to a maximum of two at a time.
  • Don’t feel obliged to correct them when they seem confused. Sometimes it is better to simply allow them to say their piece and try to move them on to another subject.
  • Don’t get visibly upset. Although it can be very distressing when someone you know and love no longer appears to recognise or trust you, but seeing your distress will only increase theirs.
Dignity / respect

One of the most important aspects about caring for someone with this condition is to treat them with dignity and respect. Their illness doesn’t make them any less human, and they will benefit from maintaining a certain level independence and normality in their lives through regular interaction and conversation.

  • Do allow them to do things for themselves wherever possible, this will help to promote ongoing feelings of independence and self-worth.
  • Do try to speak in positive terms when discussing their condition and state of wellbeing.
  • Do try and involve them in decisions that will impact on them. Just because they seem confused some of the time, don’t assume that their opinion or wishes will always be irrelevant.
  • Don’t talk about them as though they are not there. Direct any questions about their wellbeing to them first and foremost. If they are unable to give you a satisfactory answer then you can seek clarification from someone else.
  • Don’t ignore funding that may be available to help you care for them. They may well be entitled to financial support for additional care services. This may also enable you to get a well-deserved break, allowing you to return refreshed and ready to continue providing them with care.
  • Don’t forget how you would like to be treated!

Here at Harley Street Care your life, best lived, is our priority.

To find out more about how we can help you call 0207 989 0990 or email us at info@harleystreetcare.com or contact us online here

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