Dementia Awareness Week runs from 14th – 20th May and we have been working with Active Minds to discuss the effects of Dementia on families.
Active Minds work with many companies and charity organisations to help provide enjoyable activities for people living with Dementia, aiding them to continue leading active, engaging and fulfilling lives. With approximately 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, the pressures hit far more than just the care sector with families having to band together more than ever.
Although it is thought that Dementia will be one of the leading causes of death in the 21st century, it is still a relatively unknown disease, with the aim of this week to help raise awareness, encourage discussion, offer help and understanding, improve care and help fund a cure.
You may well have watched the inevitable demise of Ashley’s character in Emmerdale as he fought Vascular Dementia, however as TV always does, this storyline was romanticised with the reality being so much different.
Are you sitting down comfortably?
Most people suffering with Dementia are generally older than 65 years of age, although it can occur in younger people. It is not hereditary and just because someone in your family is battling the disease does not mean that you will suffer with Dementia in the future.
A good friend and I had got our girls together earlier this week to decorate a plant pot and to plant Forget Me Not flowers whilst we talked openly about Dementia and its effects with them… however, they already know.
My friend is a resident carer for an elderly relative suffering with Vascular Dementia, the second most common type after Alzheimer’s. Each day I see the huge strain that it puts on her, as not only has she given up her career to be an in-house carer, but also her life as she knows it and that of her family too.
Dementia sufferers do become very easily confused about situations, about the people they are with, where they are and how to do things that come so naturally to most. Along with confusion, sufferers can become very sad, annoyed or every angry and not be able to tell you why. Being calm and understanding how to deal with the situation makes it easier for all, but this takes a lot of resilience and even the strongest person can burn out over time.
One of the hardest things to deal with is when family names are forgotten, which is very upsetting and it is very important to get over to a child that this is not their fault and not to take it personally. The sufferer may have trouble working out where they are which is something my friend finds herself dealing with often. Regular checks that the front door is locked have to be made due to her relative attempting a ‘great escape’ on many occasions, which could easily lead to her being seriously hurt or completely lost. Ensuring that her family life remains as normal as possible with activities for the children, my friend has found that her dementia suffering relative will wander off with no notice and can be quite speedy. To people who are unaware of the situation, a woman chasing after an elderly lady can look rather odd and for that assistance is never offered.
Spend time together with the sufferer and plan nice activities such as crafting, play jigsaws puzzles and games, look through photographs and reminisce over memories. Keeping minds active and healthy will help the person suffering with Dementia and help keep them calmer in their confused state.
Unless you have oodles of cash, help and assistance is barely existent and specialist care homes are ridiculously expensive. The likelihood is that you and your family will have to adapt to looking after your relative suffering with dementia and it is very important to make younger members of your family aware of what this will mean, so it is a necessity to be open about the effects of Dementia.
There are lots of fundraising events happening this next week and you can find out how to get involved with events near you by visiting the Dementia Awareness Week site here, alongside further information on understanding the disease.
The plant pot and flower seeds were gifted to my friend… and I hope to see the Forget Me Not flowers popping through when I next pop around for a coffee! 😉