First of all, this blog is rather close to my heart – my aunties and many cousins have all suffered from various forms of dementia and it really is one of the cruellest diseases of the modern world. It robs families of loved ones while they are still living. Someone suffering from dementia is often described as “gone” and certainly in my experience, my aunties had all left this world well before they passed away. 
So, what is Dementia or Alzheimer’s? Dementia is an umbrella term for loss of memory and other thinking abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are several types of dementia of which Alzheimer’s is one. 
The disease ranges in severity from the mildest stage, where memory is being affected to the most severe stage where a person needs to depend on others for basic daily activities of living. The disease usually affects the elderly, but some types of dementia are known to affect younger people too. Alzheimer’s disease is probably the best-known form of dementia as it is the most common dementia diagnosed in older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain which include the build-up of certain types of proteins. Lewy body dementia is caused by the build up of specific proteins known as alpha-synuclein or Lewy bodies. Vascular dementia is caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain or the interruption of blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain. Younger people suffering from dementia are often diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia which is a rare form of dementia associated with abnormal amounts of another protein known as tau and TDP-43. 
There is a lot of medical and scientific jargon to digest when explaining the causes and types of dementia and therefore it might be reasonable to expect that anyone caring for a person with dementia understands the disease. I certainly read up on the disease when my family members were first diagnosed. It is comforting to know that care home staff are now being specifically trained to care for patients with dementia too, and there are many care homes that deal exclusively with dementia patients or have one wing or floor dedicated to patients suffering with dementia. 
We are far from offering the perfect service for elderly people with dementia. I know that my uncle tried to care for my aunt much longer than he should have. She was occasionally violent and would wander, sometimes in nightwear, around the neighbourhood at all hours of the day and night. Had there been a care home available earlier I know my uncle would have utilised it, even if only for a bit of respite for him. Unfortunately, in the area in which he lives there was a long waiting list for a care home place for my aunt and while she was offered places in some care homes, most had no specialised dementia care and were therefore unable to care for her appropriately. Time is not a luxury offered to those suffering with dementia, as the disease only gets worse, and the patient requires around the clock care. Waiting for beds to become available in care homes is unacceptable and causes no end of issues, not only for the person suffering from dementia, but also for the carer, whose mental health is affected so badly. In the end, my uncle found a lovely dementia care home for my aunt, and she ended her days very well cared for and at peace. The government is aware that care workers need to be trained to deal with various illnesses linked to old age, including dementia – so things are improving every day as more staff understand the disease and pass on their knowledge to other staff. This type of training can only be a good thing and have knock on effects to the whole of the UK’s elderly care. Visit for more information on courses available to staff working within social care. 
By Tammy Cooney (@TLC Virtual Assistant) 
Tagged as: UK, upskill
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