Learning About Dementia
Each person experiences dementia differently so it’s helpful to sort the condition into stages to help detect the symptoms earlier. This will let you know whether you need to look for care and support for a loved one. Dementia is a progressive illness affecting a person’s mental capacity, their memory and communication will gradually decline and will require support to carry out daily living routines.
Stages of Dementia
The early stages of dementia are very minor changes in a person’s behaviour and can often be mistaken for normal ageing attributes. Loss of memory for most recent events is an early sign that someone may have dementia. Be on the lookout for these signs:
In these situations it’s tempting to support them to help them cope, but in order to retain their independence and self-esteem, they should have the chance to do activities for themselves, with a little support if necessary They’re likely to become agitated and distressed in this condition, so be ready to provide emotional support and reassurance to boost their confidence.
As dementia progresses, the changes in the person become more noticeable. They need support to help manage their daily living, with frequent reminders to eat, use the toilet, wash and dress. Being forgetful of people’s names and repeating the same phrase several times are signs of decline in their memory.
During the Middle stage they may lose their confidence and become clingy.
You may also notice some other signs, be careful of:
- Confusion about where they are and becoming lost after walking off
- Waking up at night because they’re mixing up night and day
- Putting themselves and others at risk – by forgetting to light the gas on the cooker for example
- Hallucinations and difficulty in perceiving events
During this time, they’ll be totally dependent on others to help care for them. Their loss of memory will become paramount, being unable to recognise objects, surroundings and their closest friends and family members.
You’ll notice that they’ll become increasingly frail at this point, showing difficulty in walking and eventually they’ll be confined to a bed or wheelchair.
Other symptoms are:
- Difficulty in eating and swallowing
- Considerable difference in weight, some people may lose weight and others may eat too much
- Loss of their bladder control and sometimes their bowels
- Loss of speech, repeating a few words or crying out from time to time
Support to stay in your own home
If you want to live as independently as possible, you may need support to stay in your own home. The health and social care trust in your area can provide services to help you.
Health and social care assessments
A range of support is available. For example, you might need help with cleaning, or you may find it useful if you had a bath rail fitted. You may be entitled to financial help to maintain your own home. To find out what sort of help you could get, your local trust will assess your health and social care needs. It is important to tell the health and social care trust what will make your everyday life easier.
You may also be entitled to ‘direct payments’. These are trust payments available for anyone who has been assessed as needing social care, and who would like to buy services instead of receiving the trust’s services. For example, direct payments could be used to pay a home help.
Care in your own home
Care in your own home is offered to people who require help with personal care like washing or dressing, or help with other daily domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, or help in managing finances.
Direct payments – arranging your own care and services
Direct payments are local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust payments for people who have been assessed as needing help from social services, and who would like to arrange and pay for their own care and support services instead of receiving them directly from the local trust.
A person must be able to give their consent to receiving direct payments and be able to manage them even if they need help to do this on a day-to-day basis.
Who is eligible?
If you already receive social services
Your local trust is obliged to offer you the option of direct payments in place of the services you currently receive. There are some limited circumstances where you are not given this choice and your local trust will be able to tell you about these.
If you’re not receiving social services
To get direct payments you’ll need to contact your local trust to ask them to assess your needs. Direct payments are normally available if you:
- have a disability and are aged 16 or over
- are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities
- are an older person
How much do you get?
The amount you receive will depend on the assessment your local trust makes of your needs.
How it’s paid
Direct payments are made directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings’ account. If you need someone who cares for you to collect your money, or you are registered blind, payment can be made by sending a cheque which can be cashed at the Post Office.