Article by Fabafterfifty
With about 820,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia, it a worrying situation many families are having to come to terms with.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a term that is used to describe a collection of symptoms including memory loss, problems with reasoning and communication skills, and a reduction in a person’s abilities and skills in carrying out daily activities such as washing, dressing, cooking and caring for self.
Memory loss – this can be one of the first symptoms that people notice. The observations people report include – noticing their loved ones forgetting things that have happened earlier in the day, getting confused about messages and who people are, getting lost whilst out and about, repeating themselves, and appearing not to be paying attention or following conversations.
Problems with communication – Some people experience problems with expressing themselves, talking and understanding things. They get confused about words and might use the wrong words for common things and mix words up. Reading and understanding written text can become problematic.
There are a number of different types of dementia the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Fronto temporal dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies.
Some people get diagnosed as having mixed dementia; this is when the presentation shows the person to have elements of more than one type of dementia.
Dementia is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. This progression will vary from person to person and each person will experience dementia in a different way. Although the person will have some of the above symptoms, the degree to which they affect an individual will vary and not all people will have all of these symptoms.
If you suspect you or a person you know may have a type of dementia it is essential you get a diagnosis as soon as possible.
There are many conditions or situations that can cause confusion and symptoms similar to dementia.
The person who is experiencing the problems must see their GP as soon as possible.
The GP will be able to refer you to a specialist for an assessment.
A full physical examination should take place as part of the assessment. This may include an assessment of heart and lung functioning and will include blood pressure, full blood count, vitamin B12 and foliate testing, glucose testing, thyroid testing and a mid stream urine assessment.
So far there is no medical test for dementia. A diagnosis is made by excluding other conditions. It is therefore essential that the person’s carers, friends and relatives be invited to give a history of the problems.
The assessment process will vary depending on the services that are available in your area. You may have a memory service in your area and your GP may refer you for further assessment and diagnosis.
Other areas do not have a dedicated memory service and the GP will refer to your local mental health service and someone from the mental health team will contact you to arrange an assessment.
Some GPs refer to neurologists, who are specialists in disorders of the brain, for assessment. These professionals will often conduct a home visit to assess the person in their own home.
The actual assessment will include the above-mentioned tests and whoever is making the diagnosis will take a detailed history. An assessment of a person’s behaviours or abilities might be made and referral to a day hospital or to an occupational therapist might be suggested.
There are a number of scans which can be conducted which help the diagnostic process, and the professional making the diagnosis might refer you for a scan during the assessment process
You may have Admiral Nurses working in your area and your GP / psychiatrist will be able to provide you with the information you need about how to access this service.
Dementia UK is running a ‘Time for a Cuppa’ campaign throughout the month of February, where you can host your own ‘Time for a Cuppa event to help funds to support Dementia UK and Admiral Nursing.