What is dementia?
Dementia is an overall term relating to specific diseases which affect the functioning of the brain. Dementia occurs when the brain is affected by one of these diseases. It is not a natural part of ageing; however, the chance of developing dementia increases significantly with age.
Types of dementia
There are over 200 different types of dementia, with the following being the most common:
The brain tissue within a person with Alzheimer’s has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections, and the total brain size shrinks.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
A neurodegenerative condition linked to abnormal structures in the brain. The brain changes involve a protein called alpha-synuclein.
Also marked by the presence of Lewy bodies. Although Parkinson’s is often considered a disorder of movement, it can also lead to dementia symptoms.
Characterized by specific types of uncontrolled movements but also includes dementia.
This refers to a diagnosis of two or three types of dementia occurring together. For instance, a person may show both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time.
What causes dementia?
There are many causes of dementia. In general, it results from neurodegenerative disease meaning that neurons gradually cease to function, or function inappropriately and eventually die.
This affects the neuron-to-neuron connections, called synapses, that are how messages are passed along in your brain. This disconnect can result in a range of dysfunction.
Dementia may also be caused by other conditions, including:
- Head injury
- Brain tumour
- Structural brain disorders, such as normal-pressure hydrocephalus and subdural hematoma
- Metabolic disorders, such as hypothyroidism, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and kidney and liver disorders
- Toxins, such as lead
Some of these dementias may be reversible. These treatable causes of dementia may reverse symptoms if they are caught early on. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to see your doctor as soon as symptoms develop.
In its early stages, dementia can cause symptoms such as:
Short-term memory loss
You can remember events that took place 20 years ago like it was yesterday, but you are unable to remember what you had for breakfast.
Unable to cope with change
Any change to a schedule or environment might be difficult for you to accept.
You may ask the same question, complete the same task or tell the same story over and over again.
Difficulty completing everyday tasks
You might struggle to recall tasks that you have always previously been able to complete.
places, events and even people may no longer feel familiar.
Loss of interest
apathy may occur in people with dementia. This includes losing interest in hobbies or activities you used to love.
Reaching for the correct word
Word recollection or association may become more difficult.
Lack of sense of direction
You are easily lost in places you have visited many times before. Driving routes you would normally take may also feel foreign to you.
Difficulty following a storyline
You may struggle to understand a person’s story or follow a plot within a film or TV programme.
Changes in mood
Frustration, depression, and anger are very common for people with dementia.
Unfortunately, no single test can confirm a dementia diagnosis. Instead, a health care provider will use a series of tests and exams which include:
- a thorough medical history
- a careful physical exam
- laboratory tests, including blood tests
- a review of symptoms, including changes in memory, behaviour, and brain function
- a family history
In many cases, doctors can determine if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of dementia with a high degree of certainty.
However, doctors may not always be able to determine the exact type of dementia as symptoms of dementia types overlap, making it difficult to distinguish between two types.
If you are worried that a loved one is showing signs of dementia, it is critical that they are seen by a medical professional quickly for a full suite of diagnostic tests. A doctor may then also recommend what type of care will be required and if living in a <specialist care home> will be beneficial.
How to treat dementia
At present there is no cure for dementia but there are medicines, therapies and other ways in which life can be made more comfortable and fulfilling.
Most of the medicines available are for treating Alzheimer's disease as this is the most common form of dementia.
Cognitive stimulation therapy plays a key part in managing dementia symptoms and involves taking part in group activities and exercises designed to improve:
- problem-solving skills
- language ability
Evidence suggests that CST benefits people with mild to moderate dementia.
It is important that those suffering with dementia receive the correct care they need from dementia care specialists.
A person with dementia will need more care and support as their symptoms develop over time.
The importance of sensory stimulation
Sensory stimulation is the activation of one or more of the senses such as taste, smell, vision, hearing and touch. Multi-Sensory Stimulation (MSS) has become a progressively popular approach to care as it improves the emotional and physical health of people living with dementia.
The Namaste programme at Winton House focuses on the spirit by using sensory triggers across the house, with essential oils for hand massages, open windows to let in a soft breeze, and the playing of gentle and evocative music. Each week, the florist arrives with a van full of fresh blooms and creates beautiful, scented displays all around the house.
How we can help
Laughter, kindness, understanding, patience, nostalgia and stimulation are at the heart of Winton House dementia care home.
Little touches in the home can make a world of difference to someone suffering with dementia.
At Winton House we believe these are evident at every turn, from small kindnesses, afternoon tea served in the sunny conservatory rather than the lounge, or practical help like our special visual menus which aid memory. Every member of staff is endlessly kind and totally passionate about the best dementia care possible.
Our team strives to deliver the best and most rewarding care for residents and we arrange swing dancing, visits from land girls, sing-alongs, gardening and outings.
We are particularly proud of our Reminiscence Rooms. Filled with retro ornaments and a gramophone, as well as old vintage newspapers and photographs, they are also a fully functioning apartment with kitchen, dining room and living room. Residents' loved ones are welcome to book this space to cook a meal together, relax and enjoy each other's company in a home-from-home private environment, with support close at hand if required.
It’s important to remember that there are many positive aspects of moving into our specialist dementia care homes including specialist 24-hour care, interaction and social activities with others knowing that your loved one is in a safe place.
A care decision is especially difficult when dementia is involved. Please feel free to visit Winton House, for morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea. We'd be delighted to show you the work we do here and for you all to meet our team.