You may think your relative seems a little forgetful, or have difficulty remembering the right words for things, but you are not sure if this means they really have a problem. And your relative may think they are absolutely fine and their partner may be in denial or protecting them.. This is a situation that many families find themselves in and are not sure what steps to take.
The following piece gives some advice and guidance:
How to spot the signs of dementia
- Forgetting important dates or events
- Finding difficulty in basic tasks, such as following a recipe or keeping track of bills
- Forgetting the rules of a card game or how to get to a familiar location
- Losing track of the date and time, or where you are and how you got there
- Having trouble recalling words for specific objects
- Difficulty with spatial reasoning, such as parking or visual problems with following a newspaper article
- Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps
- Buying things you do not need
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in mood, such as confusion, depression, and anxiety
Is it worth getting advice?
Is it worth getting advice, or is it better to wait and see how your relative gets on for a while? Often families think there is no point doing anything about a relative with dementia in the early days, but this just isn’t true. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier support can be put in place and the better the outcome is likely to be. Your relative will probably be able to stay at home longer, manage better and plan for the future. So try to:
- Persuade your parent to visit the GP.
- If they won’t go, go yourself and discuss your worries
- You can ask the GP to make a home visit to your parent
- Another option is to speak their their GP and ask them to call in your parent for a general check up and then they can also assess the situation
What should you expect from the GP?
The GP should examine your relative, eliminating medical causes, as dementia can be related to prescribed medicines, vitamin deficiencies and urinary infections you should expect a referral to Memory Services, a service provided by the Mental Health Trust. These will operate differently depending on the area you live in
You should bear in mind that some GPs are more responsive and more knowledgeable in this area than others, so you may need to push to get a referral.
What are the treatments available?
- Alzheimer's can be treated with specific medication
- Thyroid and vitamin deficiencies can be addressed with medication
- Memory Service or GP might refer your relative to a drug trial if this is of interest
- Specialist day care facilities can be very helpful for dementia sufferers
Medication should be reviewed every six months. Care packages will not necessarily be reviewed automatically and it will be up to you to request more help if the situation deteriorates. Make sure you investigate what other services might be available and ask for them as early as possible
It is important to assess the possible risks. These can include:
- Fire Brigades, who will risk assess at home to install smoke alarms etc.
- Risk assessment by social services at home
- Assessment of allowances for care and assessment for a possible reduction in council tax
- Assessment of driving risk - you will be asked to tell the DVLA, who will usually grant a further year in the licence, but may ask for a medical form from the GP or Memory Services. If a driving licence is withdrawn, you can ask to be assessed again at a DVLA centre
Help for carers
Caring for someone with dementia can be stressful and exhausting, but you can ask for help. upport groups exist in all areas, run either by The Alzheimer’s Society or Age UK.
Carer services exist in all areas. Find the information you need in your area from you local authority directory or website, library, local memory services or social services
Government Strategies for Dementia
The strategy outlines three key steps to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers.
- Better knowledge about dementia and removing the stigma that sadly still surrounds it. The challenge of removing common misconceptions is crucial. Dementia is not a natural consequence of ageing and it is not true that nothing can be done for people with the condition. In reality, a great deal can be done to help people overcome the problems of dementia, to prevent crises and to improve the quality of life of all involved
- Ensuring that people with dementia are properly diagnosed, ensuring appropriate information is given, alongside effective intervention at an early stage
- Develop a range of services for people with dementia and their carers which fully meets their changing needs over time