These things don’t happen by themselves. They have to be orchestrated. Without the project, Mary would definitely have been in a nursing home by now or even died. Instead, she is living a supported, independent life that’s full of meaning”.
The words dementia, memory loss, memory impairment are beginning to appear more frequently in the newspapers and on radio or TV. As a person travelling home from work, or at the supermarket or making dinner, you may wonder if these words apply to you. Or you may have been to your doctor and been given a diagnosis of a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy Body’s.
You may feel frightened or frustrated, you may worry about how you and your loved ones will cope, you may be relieved to finally understand the reasons for possible changes in your mood and behaviour. You may also want to know how to get practical support (powers of attorney, planning ahead). There are supports available through your local Health Professionals, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the Living Well with Dementia project. Contact details for these organisations are on our Useful Links page.
If you feel that you or a family member may have dementia, and you haven’t received a diagnosis, you should contact your GP. The GP will schedule a consultation to explore what might be causing the symptoms you have reported. Once the GP has ruled out other potential causes (e.g. stress, infection or depression), they will refer you to a specialist for further tests. If a diagnosis is made, the GP and/or Primary Care Team (Health Centre) will draw up a care plan with you. Depending on the type of dementia and its stage, a range of healthcare professionals may be involved. Please see attached Guide to Health and Social Care Professionals in the Community.
You may be interested in this short Movie Clip
The term dementia describes a set of symptoms that includes loss of memory, mood changes, confusion and difficulties with communication and reasoning. There are 42 different types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Dementia is progressive, which means that it develops gradually over time. Early diagnosis and intervention is paramount to slowing down the progression of the disease. There are a range of drugs and non-pharmacological interventions which are designed to lessen the symptoms and delay the progression of the condition. There is unfortunately currently no cure for dementia.
There are many ways in which to support a person to live well with dementia. Routine, continuing with familiar activities, daily exercise, diet and simple memory aids can help a person to continue to live a normal life despite memory and other impairments. The attitudes and involvement of family and friends also play a vital role in supporting the person with dementia. The impact of the condition is greatly lessened when there is a positive outlook, a focus on the person’s abilities rather than disabilities, and an awareness of the daily challenges facing a person with dementia. It is important to recognise and respect the roles that the person has played in their life – parent, grandparent, teacher, music-lover, gardener – and support them to continue in those roles, living life as fully as possible. Those roles will also be a key to supporting them in the later stages of the dementia journey.
The dementia journey is different for every person. While there are common symptoms, there is considerable variation in the lived experience of dementia, and so the strategies to support a person need to be individualised and person-centred. Those in caring roles also need services that support them at the various stages of the journey.
You may be interested in this short Movie Clip.
For a more detailed understanding of dementia, please go to our Useful Links page.