“Dementia Unravelled”

Only a few days ago I was writing my last blog on dementia. (look up Dementia under TOPICS)  “Dementia Puzzle” commented on a simple activity programme for sufferers of early stage dementia and I went on to talk about the ExtraCare’s Enriched Opportunities Programme which adopts a similar approach.

When I was recently on holiday in America, I opened a copy of the Daily Mail dated 4th December 2011, and low and behold there is a double page article in the health section.  It covers the experience of Ann Curtis and her daughter Joanne Knowles.  Ann had early stage dementia and Joanne, like many other relatives in similar positions, was trying to find ways to help her mother.  After the usual stumbling around with GP’s unable to effectively diagnose the condition, Ann came across “cognitive stimulation”, which is the fancy name researchers and academics have given to keeping people active mentally and physically with familiar things.

The story goes on to recount how Ann set up a small group of sufferers to meet and share activities.  Like I said previously, it is not rocket science.  What we need is an army of volunteers, like Joanne, to be encouraged to set up small projects all over the country.  We don’t need fancy names or any more academic research.  As a society we just need to get on with it.

It is clear that loneliness and isolation compound the problems of memory loss in later life.  Misdiagnosis and no diagnosis only add to the confusion about confusion.  Simple, structured and regular engagement with older people can lift many of them out of the downward spiral of despair about dementia.  Indeed evidence has shown that many of them do not have dementia at all, but may be suffering from more treatable illnesses such as depression.

Voluntary organisations such as AGE UK, need to be doing much more in this area by offering encouragement, support and opportunity to the thousands of people like Ann and Joanne.  We need as a society to mobilise more passion and compassion about an epidemic which already threatens to overwhelm the NHS and leave the elderly and their relatives stranded and alone.

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4 Responses to “Dementia Unravelled”

  1. Capital 237 says:

    To enter into such a society unless it is family of friends is difficult: It may bring strange reactions from those who have just retired from a working enviornment. But be assured if one has chosen not a care home but a retirement village community when a senior but yet relatively still active and young at heart, then those friends and neighbours who you once shared a laugh and a joke with are still around, and if they are in the minority,(Interms of physical and mental health) then the village community can cope, and still registers these friends and villagers as people to talk to and converse with-even if it is of limited time span. It makes one personally appriciate older age, and what may happen to one? To collect all the older people with alzhimers and dementure in one group such as a desiganted home as a purpose built alzhmiers/senile dementure home is some what undignified and cruel?
    There is no getting away with airey fairy thoughts that someone with alzhiemers or senile dementia of a serious or aggressive natue does not need care and protection from themselves and others.
    If However if for a period of time the person has enjoyed life to the full in a retirement village and then befallen to alzhmiers and senile dememture, by observation and personal response the situation for the suffer is more readily accepted by the retirement village population.
    When the suffer becomes aggressive, antisocial then in that case a care/nursing home maybe the solution. However from obsevations in a typical modern retirement village for the over 55’s and of various age spans of some 350 souls at any time those suffering serious effects of alzhmeirs and senile demeture is a figure of say 10 at most? And of these souls they are mostly passive and just seek companionship of another human being or a gentle smile- Conversation is a different art? To belong and not to be ostrazised is the return smile on their face that says ‘thank you’!!!.

    • john graham says:

      This is a very good first hand account and shows that a smile and a kind word goes a long way to giving reassurance to dimentia sufferers.
      Allowing sufferers to live a normal a life for as long as possable is also important. Being able to go out and meet familiar people, sit down and have a cup of tea, or buying something in the shop are all reminders of normality.

  2. Maureen o'Neill says:

    Having seen a person in the village suffering from alzhimiers who has wandered aimlessly around for a couple of years and who has just died I am sure that the time spent among faces he knew was such a good thing. He wandered aimlessly into various things or sat with people whose faces he recognised and was talked to. Conversation was not good but many people attempted this and we all knew him. As Capital 237 says if he /she is not antisocial or aggressive then it is good to be among friends. The beauty of a retirement village is that most people are kind and tolerant. As we age we are aware that one day maybe we, too, will need to be treated with compassion.

    • john graham says:

      I agree with you Maureen. Most people who aquire dementia while they are living in a retirement housing environment can live out their lives there with a supportive and understanding community around them.

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