Long Term Living Condition
Living Life to the Full with Dementia
Mum was diagnosed with dementia 9 years ago, but as a dementia guest on our holidays says, “You’ve just got to get on with what your are dealt with in life”. As a family, we have had lots of laughs, made new friends and learnt more about one another. Isn’t that what life is all about?
Dementia describes a range of conditions effecting the brain, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s, followed by vascular dementia. However, other diseases such as Parkinson’s can also cause dementia. Memory loss and confusion are the most well-known symptoms but, a wide range of other symptoms can also exist, including mood and behaviour changes, and difficulties in concentrating, communicating and reasoning. No two people will have the same experience and different people encounter symptoms in different ways. I often describe it as “taking the brakes off somebody’s underlying personality traits”. You can really get to know your nearest and dearest! A person with dementia seldom lies, and if you are honest they often just say what we are thinking, which can be both refreshing if not sometimes embarrassing.
There are very few treatments available, so why bother getting a diagnosis? Firstly it can allay the concerns of the individual, helping them come to terms with their condition. Secondly it can prepare them and their family for the future, but most importantly it allows you to access a wide range of experienced, caring and supportive people who understand dementia and the journey you will travel through. These people can help everybody learn how to communicate effectively with one another, and to adapt their lifestyles.
Boredom and anxiety are common effects for people living with dementia and their primary family carer. Sharing photographs or memorabilia and reminiscing can bring back happy memories. Get to know your loved one with dementia again, and don’t be afraid to try a range of new things and enlist the help of dementia experts. There are a range of dementia services available, including café’s, day centres, one to one befriending, leisure activities, assistive technology, singing groups, day trips, and supported holidays. Just remember each person is different; one size does not fit all, and family and friends don’t always know best. New people can introduce enjoyable activities.
My mum has two fantastic befrienders who are now part of our family. They have introduced her to lots of things we would not have considered, which have allowed her to make new friends and embrace new experiences.
If you would like to know more about dementia, become a dementia friend or go on an awareness course. The different types of support available in your area can be found by contacting your local Alzheimer’s society, your carers champion linked to your GP, and by speaking about dementia in your local community. Just remember to talk to one another, get to know dementia, understand the local support available and enlist the help of people experienced with dementia. Then you will all continue to have quality times together and create many happy memories both now and in the future.
Written by Carol Sargent (PhD) co-founder of MindforYou, providing supported holidays for people living with dementia and their carers.
For more information, please visit www.mindforyou.co.uk