Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65, and 1 in six over the age of 80 – a huge portion of our population. But many may not realise the heartbreaking impact this disease has on loved ones and carers.
Every September, the world marks Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – a chance to spread the word and challenge the stigma around dementia, a group of brain disorders that affect memory, thinking and behaviour.
Here, our Welfare Services Lead, Carrie Pearce, shares some key information around Alzheimer’s disease, as well as tips for those caring for someone:
What is Alzheimer’s?
The term ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ – or Alzheimer’s – can be used to describe the physical disease that damages the brain, as well as the type of dementia that the disease causes.
It is thought that by the year 2025, there will be one million people in the UK living with dementia.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease and what are the signs and symptoms?
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, although a number of elements are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition:
- increasing age
- a family history of the condition
- untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe.
It affects multiple brain functions and the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is usually minor memory problems. For example, this could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects. As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, such as:
- confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
- difficulty planning or making decisions
- problems with speech and language
- problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
- personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding, and suspicious of others
- low mood or anxiety.
Who is affected?
Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases with age, affecting an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every zix people over the age of 80.
Living with and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s
Living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is life-changing. As a person’s symptoms progress, they may feel frustrated, anxious, stressed, scared, and confused.
It is important to support the person to maintain basic skills, abilities and to continue to have an active social life; this will help with how they feel about themselves and view their quality of life.
It can be difficult to adapt to change but it is important as a carer to focus on what a person can do rather than what they can’t. Providing a place of safety and constant reassurance for the person with dementia is fundamental.
As a carer, you may face difficult challenges and it’s important to get as much support as possible. It’s also vital to remember that your needs as a carer are as important as the person you are caring for.
Tips for caring for someone with dementia:
- Know your limits: Remember that you’re only one person and there’s only so much that you can do. Focus on what you can do and accept the things that you can’t.
- Prioritise: Work out which things you really need to do, and which things are less important, and do the most important first.
- Don’t compare yourself: Remember everyone’s situation is different.
- Confront your feelings: It’s important to understand your feelings. Having negative feelings does not make you a bad person. If you’re feeling frustrated, try to find out why. Are you getting enough support? Are you trying to do too much? Once you understand your feelings, you will be able to make clearer decisions about what’ right for you and the person you’re caring for.
- Talk about things: Talking can make you feel less stressed or isolated and can help you put things into perspective. Talk with your GP, social worker, a friend, a family member, or to other carers.
- Take a break: Taking regular breaks can help you to look after yourself. Family and friends may be able to provide short breaks, for you to have some time to yourself. Other options are day centres, sitting services and respite care.
Where to get help and support
- Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline: Call 0333 150 345 or email Dementia.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dementia UK Dementia Helpline: Call 0800 888 6678 or email email@example.com
- YoungDementia UK – under 65’s support: Call 01865 794 311 or email www.youngdemetiauk.org
- Carers UK Helpline: Call 0808 808 7777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can we help?
We understand the devastating impact Alzheimer’s can have on all involved. Dealing with the loss of the person you once knew and managing the changes that this brings are huge. Our Welfare caseworkers are here to support you, as well as providing a friendly ear to listen when things get tough. We can help with practical things such as:
- Information Advice and guidance, including statutory provision & Welfare benefits
- Disability aids and equipment – help at home
- Provide information on Support groups in your local area
- Provide Support from our carers community and Living Well Groups
- Telephone be-friending services.
To find out more, call 0800 389 8820 and speak to a member of our Assessment Practitioner team who will put you in touch with one of our Welfare Caseworkers.