“Dementia Puzzle”

How much more research do we need to tell us that the way we currently treat people with dementia is not the right way.  Common sense should tell us that if we marginalise people with dementia and leave them on their own for long periods, the lack of stimulation in their lives will certainly not improve their condition.  Their inability to remember things from the immediate past becomes a barrier to everyday living.

A spouse can often compensate for these memory lapses but eventually it can be at great personal cost.  That is why support for those still living at home is so vitally important and yet currently Social Services are having to withdraw help from people in their own home, in order to prioritise inadequate resources on the most dependant.  This is a nonsensical Government Health strategy, which can only lead to higher costs and poorer care in the long-term.

Nothing can be more debilitating than to take confused people into residential care, put them with lots of other confused people and give them nothing to do all day.  Confusion just leads to more confusion – it is a totally defeatist strategy.

A recently reported piece of research in Bavaria followed the lives of residents with dementia who were given two hours of activity therapy 6 days a week for a year.  The activities included gentle exercise, gardening, preparing meals and puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku.  At the end of the study the residents had declined less than would be expected.  The activity programme was at least as effective as drug treatment in modifying the progression of the illness.

This simple piece of research underlines conclusions already reached in research at the ExtraCare Charitable Trust over a good many years.  This has now be formalised as an “Enriched Opportunities Programme” which is based on the individual lives of the residents.  It is founded on the principal that the more familiar the activities are to residents’ former lives, the more satisfying they are likely to be.

Therapies for dementia are not rocket science, they are common sense, but they depend on society, the Department of Health and Social Services not turning their backs on the problem at an early stage.

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4 Responses to “Dementia Puzzle”

  1. Again John you have poked the pig in the cage.
    What you say and what you allude to is true, and I agree with. We are coming to the same conclusion. However we need a broader church of opinion, as to how to solve this problem.
    I see your ideals of Extracare Charitable Trust, and its ‘Enriched Opportunities’ as being an excellent, practical and very positive solution to dementia, and I look forward to being an observer, client or helper in the scheme, whichever occasion comes first.
    My earlier contributions to Dementia and Alzheimer’s is that I noticed and am now witnessing the close behave of my own family, and resident Extracare Villagers, and attitudes of these persons what befalls them, as they reach old age.
    Still The Extracare Charitable Trust Retirement Villages are regarded by the majority of outsiders as a ‘RETIREMENT’ RESIDENTIAL CARE HOME, and not a retirement village with centralised ‘Care In the Home’ services and opportunities, which it is.
    Most of the elderly persons over 75 moving into our retirement village look upon the Extracare Charitable Trust Retirement Village, once in demand the level of care and service of care throughout the village as a residential care home? Where for a fee everything is provided by a hand maiden! This is not the ethos I came to understand of the Retirement Villages run by the Extracare Charitable Trust. Here the emphasis was to have and remain as long as possible independent, and self sufficient .
    My family-Your Mind set For Change
    I now come to my close family and to some extent some of the villagers in an Extracare Retirement Village. My mother and father had a good and happy married life together until my father died some 15 years ago. Before my father died (Living in the West Riding), there were only the care/residential homes and nursing homes for the elderly, and they were not inviting places. The only other alternative for persons of modest means was a social warden controlled housing schemes: However as a homeowner my parents had to become homeless to qualify. There were no such schemes as the ‘Extracare Charitable Trust’ and Hanover Housing and Stone McCarthy were not considered by my parents.
    My father died, my mother was then left in the family house alone after 5 years (she was now83+), my mother liked people but not strangers in the house or a 24 hour companion, so things deteriorated. My Mum lost the ability to converse , and then started hallucinations, and then getting lost in the local shopping centre, where she went to feel secure among people? (Although they were strangers to the family).
    WE as a family saw the problem discussed it and found the solution in a local Anchor Homes residential home.
    What I am trying to say John is that our own attitudes have to change to old age including our elderly peers? One needs while ones partner/spouse/friend is alive is to approach and embrace the way of live as presented by a EXTRACARE CHARITABLE TRUST RETIREMENT VILLGE, and actively engage in its society of ‘Friends of the Village’, and if and when the opportunity arises join the residents, so that in the very sad event one is left alone for any reason, one has acquaintances and friends with whom one can enjoy life and rekindle a life in a community, and not one of isolation, and loneliness.

    • john graham says:

      Absolutely. Later life can be a challange and it helps to have family and friends around you. In a Retirement Village it also provides the opportunity for people to play a continuing role in the community.

  2. Christine says:

    A useful study revealing what patients really need?

    • john graham says:

      Thanks for the reminder of this very useful technique Christine. It was used widely in ExtraCare Charitable Trust especially in our specialist nursing homes and also by our Locksmiths who looked after residents with dementia in retirement housing.

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