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For someone living with dementia, it is important that they get access to the support available for them, this in turn will help improve their quality of life, as well as for their carers.
This blog will explore the different types of support that is available, including medication, therapy, adapting the home, as well as dementia-related charities and how this helps with making sure that the person centered approach is carried out.
Medication available for people living with dementia
Dementia worsens because of gradual but consistent damage to brain cells, but there are some types of medication that can slow the damage down in Alzheimer’s disease and DLB, which are:
- Memantine (Alzheimer’s disease only).
This medication is not a cure for any type of dementia but it may give individuals more opportunity to remain independent for longer, lessening the possibility of them having to live in residential care for a much longer time.
For vascular dementia, it may be possible to manage the symptoms of dementia by offering the individual types of medication that promote other aspects of their health that are thought to be linked to this type of dementia. So, medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol may be a useful alternative to the medications that are meant specifically for dementia.
What therapies are available?
Treatments need not just mean medication though as more often, individuals are using therapy as a way of managing their condition. Not only does this help their condition but it can give individuals a much better quality of life because it improves their overall wellbeing.
There are several types of therapy, which include:
- Counselling – A person centred method where the therapist guides the individual to identify their own solutions.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy helps the individual to amend the way they think and behave, often in response to some kind of trauma. Families and carers can benefit from attending sessions with the individual so that they can assist them in using the techniques when they are not in a therapy setting.
- Life story and reminiscence work – This type of work is usually shared between the person with dementia and their family, friends and carers. A scrapbook or photo album is used to record details of the person’s life experiences, values and beliefs.
- Complimentary therapies – Many individuals find massage, meditation and light therapy to be helpful in promoting overall health and well being.
Some individuals will benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, who is a specialist medical professional who deals with mental illnesses. They will be able to advise what has already happened to the individual and what they, and their family, can expect next.
An occupational therapist can assist the individual to maintain their independence and can offer advice and guidance about how they can remain active, any modifications that might benefit them in their home and how carers can best work with them in order for them to retain the skills that they currently have for as long as possible.
How to adapt the home
Individuals may have a risk assessment carried out by an occupational therapist to determine if any adaptations to their home can be made to ensure that they remain as independent as possible.
The Alzheimer’s Society suggests the following in enabling individuals to retain their independence:
- Label cupboards and objects with pictures and words so that they can be identified.
- Where possible, use devices that only have one function and are easy to identify, for example a kettle.
- Place clear instructions that can easily be followed somewhere visible.
- Make sure the kitchen is well lit.
- If there are concerns about using gas or electrical appliances inappropriately, contact the gas or electricity company and ask for the person to be put on the priority service register. This means that they will be eligible for free regular safety checks and will be able to get advice about safety measures such as isolation valves (advice is also available for carers).
- Fit an isolation valve to a gas cooker so that the cooker cannot be turned on and left on. Devices are also available for electric cookers.
- Look into products that may help to maintain independence and safety such as electric kettles that switch off automatically.
- If the person’s ability to recognise danger is declining, consider removing potentially dangerous implements such as sharp knives, but place other items for everyday use within easy reach.
Attempts by the harasser to claim that their behaviour was not intended or that it was just ‘banter’, would not be classed as a defence.
As well as the Equality Act 2010, individuals may be protected by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which does not limit harassment to circumstances where a protected characteristic applies.
Charities that can support people living with dementia
In the early stages of dementia, individuals, and their carers may benefit from knowing more about the condition and what some of their options are with regards to treatment, management and possibly even with accommodation once the illness progresses.
There are several charities and organisations who can assist with these issues:
The Alzheimer’s Society and Mental Health Foundation aim to improve the lives of people who are living with a mental illness. They offer free advice and services that will help inform individuals and their carers about specific mental illnesses and how their lives can be improved despite their diagnosis. They also arrange charity events, which can be a very enjoyable activity for which individuals can get involved. Knowing that they are making a difference and raising awareness of the condition can be very positive for someone’s self-esteem and therefore their overall well being.
Age UK is a charity, which works specifically with older people. They offer advice on a huge amount of issues, which may be relevant to the person who is living with dementia and their family and carers. Everything they do is tailored to meet the needs of older people and they employ people who are professionally trained in many areas to offer support and advice about issues such as:
- Health and well being.
- Living arrangements.
Anchor (previously known as The Anchor Trust) help to provide housing and care for older people. They will assess the current living conditions of an individual with dementia and then offer advice about whether any modifications could be made or if they would benefit from living elsewhere. They have a range of professionals working with them and ensure that their services are accessible to all.
Other types of local resources include:
- Care homes.
- Domiciliary care.
- Respite care.
- Supported housing.
Where an individual with dementia lives is very important because they will need to feel secure, comfortable and settles in an environment, which is not going to aggravate their condition any further.